Allied Warships

HMS Matchless (G 52)

Destroyer of the M class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassM 
PennantG 52 
Built byA. Stephen & Sons Ltd. (Glasgow, Scotland) 
Ordered 
Laid down14 Sep 1940 
Launched4 Sep 1941 
Commissioned26 Feb 1942 
End service 
History

Sold to the Turkish Navy in 1958 being renamed Kilicipasa.

 

Commands listed for HMS Matchless (G 52)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. John Mowlam, RN5 Jan 1942Late 1943
2Lt. William David Shaw, RNLate 1943Early 1944
3Cdr. John Mowlam, DSO, RNearly 19444 Feb 1944
4Lt.Cdr. Eric Norman Walmsley, DSC, RN4 Feb 1944mid 1944

5Lt.Cdr. Standish O Grady Roche, DSO, RN7 Nov 1944mid 1946

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Notable events involving Matchless include:


28 Mar 1942
HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN) conducted D/G trials at Scapa Flow. These were followed by gunnery exercises. Also a torpedo firing exercise was carried out during which HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) served as the target. (1)

7 Apr 1942
HMS L 23 (Lt. M.G.R. Lumby, RN) participated in A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN). (2)

8 Apr 1942

Convoy operation to and from northern Russia, convoy's PQ 14 and QP 10.

Convoy PQ 14 from Reykjavik to the Kola Inlet and convoy QP 10 from the Kola Inlet to Reykjavik.

Timespan: 8 April to 21 April 1942.

8 April 1942.

On this day convoy PQ 14 of 25 merchant vessels departed Reykjavik, Iceland for the Kola Inlet in northern Russia. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. RFA Aldersdale (British, Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker, 8402 GRT, built 1937), Andre Marti (Russian, 2352 GRT, built 1918), Arcos (Russian, 2343 GRT, built 1918), Atheltemplar (British, tanker, 8992 GRT, built 1930), Botavon (British, 5848 GRT, built 1912), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), British Corporal (British, 6972 GRT, built 1922), City of Joliet (American, 6167 GRT, built 1920), Dan-Y-Brin (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Empire Bard (British, 3114 GRT, built 1942), Empire Howard (British, 6985 GRT, built 1941), Exterminator (Panamanian, 6115 GRT, built 1924), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Hegira (American, 7588 GRT, built 1919), Hopemount (British, 7434 GRT, built 1929), Ironclad (American, 5685 GRT, built 1919), Minotaur (American, 4554 GRT, built 1918), Mormacrio (American, 5940 GRT, built 1919), Pieter de Hoogh (Dutch, 7168 GRT, built 1941), Seattle Spirit (American, 5627 GRT, built 1919), Sukhona (Russian, 3124 GRT, built 1918), Trehata (British, 4817 GRT, built 1928), West Cheswald (American, 5711 GRT, built 1919), West Gotomska (American, 5728 GRT, built 1918) and Yaka (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920).

Close escort was initially (8 to 12 April) provided by the escort destroyer HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN), the minesweepers HMS Hebe (Lt.Cdr. J.B.G. Temple, DSC, RN), HMS Speedy (Lt. J.G. Brookes, DSC, RN), the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Austin (T/Lt. O.B. Egjar, RNR), HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. R.H. Jameson, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR) and the A/P trawler Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(ret) P. Bevans, RNR).

9 April 1942.

A close cover force for convoy PQ 14 arrived at Seidisfiord, Iceland from Scapa Flow. It was made up of the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, OBE, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Huddart, RN).

10 April 1942.

The close cover force for convoy PQ 14 departed Seidisfiord on this day, as stated before it was made up of the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh and the destroyers HMS Foresight and HMS Forester.

Also the close escort for convoy PQ 14 departed Seidisfjord, it was made up of the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), the corvettes HMS Campanula (Lt.Cdr. W. Hine, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Saxifage (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.P. Chapman, RNR), HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, RNR) and the A/S trawler HMS Duncton (T/Lt. P.J.G. Christian, RNVR).

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On this day convoy QP 10 of 16 merchant vessels departed the Kola Inlet in northern Russia for Reykjavik, Iceland. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. Artigas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Beaconstreet (British, 7467 GRT, built 1927), Belomorcanal (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Capulin (Panamanian, 4977 GRT, built 1920), Dnepprostroi (Russian, 4756 GRT, built 1919), El Coston (Panamanian, 7286 GRT, built 1924), El Occidente (Panamanian, 6008 GRT, built 1910), Empire Cowper (British, 7164 GRT, built 1941), Harpalion (British, 5486 GRT, built 1932), Kiev (Russian, 5823 GRT, built 1917), Mana (Honduras, 3283 GRT, built 1920), Navarino (British, 4841 GRT, built 1937), River Afton (British 5479 GRT, built 1935), Sevzaples (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1932), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922) and Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940).

Close escort was provided by the British destroyers HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSC, RN), minesweeper HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. J.J. Youngs, OBE, RNR), A/S trawlers HMS Blackfly (T/Lt. A.P. Hughes, RNR) and HMS Paynter (Lt. R.H. Nossiter, RANVR). The escort was strengthened local escort was provided from departure until 12 April (to longtitude 30°'E) by the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Sokrushitelny and the British minesweepers HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN), HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN) and HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN). Close cover for the convoy was provided by the light cruiser HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN) which departed the Kola Inlet on the 11th.

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Distant cover for both convoy's (PQ 14 and QP 10) was provided by ships from the Home Fleet; battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN), light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN). These ships departed Scapa Flow on the 12th except for the destroyers Bedouin, Eskimo, Somali and Matchless which left Scapa Flow on the 11th to fuel at Skaalefiord and then to join the Home Fleet at sea.

Also the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN) departed Scapa Flow to patrol in an area about 130 nautical miles south-west of Bear Island from where she could support either convoy during this part of their passages.

11 April 1942.

From the initial close escort of convoy PQ 14, HMS Wilton, HMS Hebe, HMS Speedy and two of the A/S trawlers were damaged by ice and their Asdic gear was out of action as the convoy encountered thick ice during 11 and 12 April.

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Convoy QP 10 was attacked by German aircraft (Ju 88 from III./KG.30) in position 71°01'N, 36°00'E. During this attack the merchant vessel Empire Cowper (cargo; chrome ore & pitprops) was sunk with the loss of nine of her crew.

As stated above the light cruiser HMS Liverpool departed the Kola Inlet to provide close cover for convoy QP 10 and the destroyers HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi and HMS Matchless departed Scapa Flow to fuel at Skaalefiord in the Faroe Islands.

12 April 1942.

All ships from the close cover and close escort force that had departed Seidisfiord on the 10th joined convoy PQ 14. HMS Wilton and one of the A/S trawlers left the convoy and proceeded to Seidisfiord where they arrived the next day. Also the RFA tanker Aldersdale left the convoy.

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As stated above ships from the Home Fleet departed Scapa Flow on this day to provide cover for convoy's PQ 14 and QP 10. Later this day the destroyers that had departed Scapa Flow yesterday and that had fuelled at Skaalefiord in the Faroe Islands joined the fleet at sea after which the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Escapade, HMS Onslow and HMS Offa left the fleet to also fuel at Skaalefiord.

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Also around 1645 hours this day the German submarine U-435 reported being shelled by three destroyers. This was however most likely HMS Liverpoo which reported firing on a surfaced submarine at exactly this time.

13 April 1942.

HMS Speedy, which was damaged by ice, parted company with convoy PQ 14 and proceeded to Reykjavik.

HMS Hebe, which was also damaged by ice, also parted company with convoy PQ 14 and proceeded to Akureyri, providing escort for tanker Aldersdale for part of the way.

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In the morning, HMS Faulknor, HMS Escapade, HMS Onslow and HMS Offa, rejoined the Home Fleet at sea after fuelling at Skaalefiord in the Faroe Islands. The four 'Hunt-class' destroyers then parted company with the Home Fleet and HMS Belvoir, HMS Ledbury and HMS Middleton proceeded to Scapa Flow while HMS Wheatland was to make rendez-vous with the RFA oiler Aldersdale and escort her to Seidisfiord, Iceland.

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German aircraft were heard homing U-boats on convoy QP 10 which resulted in two of them attacking the convoy shortly after midnight.

At 0059 hours the German submarine U-436 torpedoed and sank the Russian merchant Kiev (cargo; chrome ore and timber) which sank with the loss of six of her crew. The survivors were picked up by HMS Blackfly.

Then at 0129 hours the German submarine U-435 torpedoed and sank the Panamanian merchant El Occidente (cargo; chrome ore,but only as ballast). 20 of her crew crew lost their lives and 21 survivors were picked up by HMS Speedwell. Following this attack U-435 was depth charged by the destroyer HMS Oribi but she sustained no damage.

Then at 1127 hours, U-435 attacked a destroyer with one torpedo which missed. This apparently was HMS Eclipse which then counter attacked with depth charges which slightly damaged U-435.

At 1530 hours, U-435 came across the abandoned wreck of the British merchant vessel Harpalion. This ship had been heavily damaged by German Ju 88 aircraft and had been abanadoned. A reported scuttling attempt by the convoy escort must have failed. Three torpedoes were fired at the wreck of which the third torpedo struck aft. The vessel was seen to sink slowly by the stern after about 20 minutes.

14 April 1942. Convoy PQ 14 was now finally clear from the ice. Only nine merchant vessels were left that were able to continue the passage to north Russia. Six more stagglers were unaccounted for and eventually joined convoy QP 10 and returned to Iceland.

15 April 1942.

Convoy PQ 14 was detected by enemy aircraft and shadowed intermittently from then on. The enemy aircraft homed in U-boats on the convoy.

16 April 1942.

HMS Speedy and two A/S trawlers with nine merchant ships (stagglers) from convoy PQ 14 returned to Reykjavik.

HMS Hebe arrived at Akureyri from the escort of convoy PQ 14.

Also on this day the German submarine U-403 torpedoed and sank the ship of the convoy commodore of PQ 14, the British merchant Empire Howard in position 73°48'N, 21°50'E. Survivors from this ship were picked up by the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Middleton and Northern Wave.

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Convoy QP 10 was again spotted by enemy and shadowed. HMS Kent left the Home Fleet and joined the close cover force for this convoy.

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Also the escort destroyers HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN) and HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow to fuel at Skaalefiord before joining the Home Fleet at sea.

Four destroyers from the screen of the Home Fleet; HMS Faulknor, HMS Somali, HMS Bedouin and HMS Matchless also proceeded to Seidisfiord, Iceland to fuel.

17 April 1942.

What remained of convoy PQ 14 was joined by a eastern local escort made up of the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Sokrushitelny and the British minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Hussar and HMS Niger (Cdr.(ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN).

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The destroyer HMS Eclipse from the close escort of convoy QP 10 left to fuel at Seidisfiord.

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HMS Norfolk left her patrol position to proceed to Hvalfiord, Iceland.

HMS Faulknor, HMS Somali, HMS Bedouin and HMS Matchless arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel. After doing so they left in the afternoon and rejoined the Home Fleet at sea later the same day.

Also HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton and HMS Hursley arrived at Skaalefiord where they fuelled and then departed to join the Home Fleet at sea.

18 April 1942.

HMS Eclipse arrived at Seidisfiord. After fuelling she departed for Scapa Flow in the afternoon.

HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton and HMS Hursley joined the Home Fleet at sea.

HMS Eskimo, HMS Offa and HMS Escapade then parted company with the Home Fleet to fuel at Skaalefiord where the arrived in the afternoon. After fuelling they departed for Scapa Flow later the same day.

The Home Fleet; battleships King George V, Duke of York, aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, light cruiser HMS Nigeria, destroyers HMS Punjabi, HMS Bedouin, HMS Matchless, HMS Faulknor, HMS Onslow and the escort destroyers HMS Middleton, HMS Ledbury, HMS Lamerton and HMS Hursley returned to Scapa Flow late in the evening.

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The two cruisers from the close cover force for convoy QP 10 left this convoy in position 67°43'N, 12°56'W. HMS Kent set course for Scapa Flow, HMS Liverpool for Seidisfiord, Iceland to fuel there.

19 April 1942.

HMS Edinburgh, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester arrived in the Kola Inlet.

HMS Eskimo, HMS Offa and HMS Escapade arrived at Scapa Flow.

HMS Liverpool arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel. After doing so she departed for Scapa Flow in the afternoon.

20 April 1942.

HMS Kent arrived at Scapa Flow.

21 April 1942.

What remained of convoy PQ 14 arrived at Murmansk.

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HMS Liverpool arrived at Scapa Flow.

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Convoy QP 10, 11 ships and 6 ships from PQ 14, arrived at Reykjavik escorted by HMS Oribi, HMS Marne, HMS Punjabi and HMS Fury. (3)

18 Apr 1942
HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet), HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) and HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow after convoy cover duty. (4)

26 Apr 1942

Convoys PQ 15 and QP 11 and the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi.

Convoy PQ 15 from Iceland to Northern Russia and Convoy QP 11 from Northern Russia to Iceland. Also includes an account on the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi.

On 26 April 1942 convoy PQ 15 departed Reykjavik for Murmansk where it arrived on 5 May 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alcoa Cadet (American, 4823 GRT, built 1919), Alcoa Rambler (American, 5500 GRT, built 1919), Bayou Chico (American, 5401 GRT, built 1920), Botavon (British, 5858 GRT, built 1912), Cape Corso (British, 3807 GRT, built 1929), Cape Race (British, 3807 GRT, built 1930), Capira (Panamanian, 5625 GRT, built 1920), Deer Lodge (American, 6187 GRT, built 1919), Empire Bard (British, 3114 GRT, built 1942), Empire Morn (British, CAM ship, 7092 GRT, built 1941), Expositor (American, 4959 GRT, built 1919), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Hegira (American, 7588 GRT, built 1919), Jutland (British, 6153 GRT, built 1928), Lancaster (American, 7516 GRT, built 1918), Mormacrey (American, 5946 GRT, built 1919), Mormacrio (American, 5940 GRT, built 1919), Paul Luckenbach (American, 6606 GRT, built 1913), Seattle Spirit (American, 5627 GRT, built 1919), Southgate (British, 4862 GRT, built 1926), Texas (American, 5638 GRT, built 1919) and Zebulon B. Vance (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942).

Two icebrakers were also part of the convoy, these were the Krassin (Russian, 4902 GRT, built 1917) and Montcalm (Canadian, 1432 GRT, built 1904, to be transferred to the Russians)

The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) was also with the convoy.

On departure from Reykjavik the convoy was escorted by the minesweepers HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, RN), HMS Leda (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Cape Palliser (Lt. B.T. Wortley, RNR), HMS Northern Pride (T/Lt. A.R. Cornish, RNR), HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR) and the A/P trawler Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(ret) P. Bevans, RNR).

Around 0300Z/28, ' Force Q ' a refuelling force for the convoy escorts, made up of the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) departed Seidisfiord with her escort, the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN). With them were the AA ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN) and the submarine HMS Sturgeon (Lt.Cdr. M.R.G. Wingfield, RN). They joined the convoy during the night of 28/29 April.

Around 0500Z/29, A close cover force made up of the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN), the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Steward, RN), HNoMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill, RNorN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfiord to join the convoy which they did early on 30 April.

The heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN) also joined the convoy (close cover force), she had departed Scapa Flow around 1645B/28.

around 0635B/1, the submarine HMS Sturgeon parted company with the convoy to take up a patrol position in the Artic Sea. ' Force Q ', the refuelling force made up of the tanker Grey Ranger and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury also parted company with the convoy on 1 May.

Around 2220B/1, Six German Ju.88 torpedo bombers attacked the convoy but no hits were obtained. One of the attackers was shot down by AA fire.

During the night of 1/2 May, HMS London was detached to provide close cover for convoy QP 11.'

At 1000B/2, HMS Nigeria also parted company with the convoy to join convoy QP 11. The Admiralty had decided that there was no need for the cruisers to proceed further to the east as the enemy destroyers operating in Northern Norway had been sunk or damaged in action with the cover force of convoy QP 11 (see below).

At 2009B/2, HNoMS St. Albans and HMS Seagull attacked an A/S contact with depth charges in position 73°01'N, 17°32'E. The submarine was forced to the surface but turned out to be the Polish submarine ORP Jastrzab (Lt.Cdr. B. Romanowski). She was way out of position and in waters where German submarines were expected to be operating. No blame could possibly be taacked to HNoMS St. Albans and HMS Seagull. Five of the crew of the Polish submarine died while the others were picked up.

At 0120B/3, the convoy was again attacked by enemy torpedo bombers. Visibility was bad and the enemy planes were not sighted until it was too late. Also radar had not picked them up. The succeeded in sinking two merchant vessels, the Botavon (the ship of the Convoy Commodore) and the Cape Corso. A third merchant vessel, the Jutland was damaged and was abandoned by her crew. The drifting ship was shortly afterwards torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-251.

At 2230C/3, a final German air attack took place while the convoy was in position 73°00'N, 31°15'E. A bomb near missed the A/S trawler HMS Cape Palliser which sustained some slight damage. One German Ju.88 aircraft was shot down. Visibility deteriorated in the evening of the 4th and a south-easterly gale sprang up bringing heavy snow. This provided the convoy with excellent cover for the remainder of the passage. The convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet around 2100C/5.

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On 28 April 1942 convoy QP 11 departed Murmansk for Reykjavik where it arrived on 7 May 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atheltemplar (British (tanker), 8992 GRT, built 1930), Ballot (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Dan-Y-Bryn (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Dunboyne (American, 3515 GRT, built 1919), El Estero (Panamanian, 4219 GRT, built 1920), Eldena (American, 6900 GRT, built 1919), Gallant Fox (Panamanian, 5473 GRT, built 1918), Mormacmar (American, 5453 GRT, built 1920), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Trehata (British, 4817 GRT, built 1928), Tsiolkovsky (Russian, 2847 GRT, built 1935) and West Cheswald (American, 5711 GRT, built 1919).

On departure from Murmansk the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, OBE, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Huddart, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), corvettes HMS Campanula (Lt.Cdr. W. Hine, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Saxifage (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.P. Chapman, RNR), HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, RNR) and the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. R.H. Jameson, RNR) and HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR). Cover was provided by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CB, CVO, DSO, RN).

Besides these ships there was a local escort by the Russian destroyers Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchiy until at least 30°E and by the minesweepers HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN), HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN), HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN) and HMS Niger (Cdr.(ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN) until the evening of the 29th.

The convoy was sighted and reported by enemy aircraft and submarines on the 29th, but no attacks took place that day. The following afternoon (30 September), however, HMS Edinburgh, then zigzagging at high speed some 15 nautical miles ahead of the convoy, in approximate position 73°09'N, 32°45'E, was struck by two torpedoes from the German submarine U-456. Her stern was blown off and her steering gear was wrecked. She was able to steam at slow speed on two shafts. The explosion was seen from the convoy and the destroyers HMS Foresight and HMS Forester were detached to her assistance, followed shortly afterwards by the two Russian destroyers. Escorted by these destroyers HMS Edinburgh started in the 250 nautical mile return passage to Murmansk.

The presence of the destroyers prevented U-456 from finishing the cruiser off. She continued to shadown and report the Edinburgh's movements. These reported tempted the German Flag Officer, Northern Waters to sent three destroyers from Kirkenes to attack convoy QP 11 with its depleted escort and the destroyers Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann, Z 24 and Z 25 put to sea and steered to the north.

Convoy QP 11, meanwhile, continued its passage. At 0540/1, being then about 150 miles to the east-south-east of Bear Island it was unsuccesfully attacked by four torpedo aircraft. At the same time an enemy submarine was sighted and forced to dive by HMS Amazon. Frequent HF/DF bearings indicated that four enemy submarines were keeping pace with the convoy on different bearings, and at 0820/1, course was altered 40° to starboard (to 320°) in an endeavour to shake them off. Then ice was sighted in large quantities ahead. This was found to extend some 20 miles to the southward of the route, and course was again altered to the westward.

The forenoon passed without incident. The weather was moderate, wind north-north-east, force 3. Frequent snow squalls caused the visibility to vary between ten and two miles.

At 1345/1, the convoy was in course 275°, skirting heavy drift ice to starboard, when HMS Snowflake reported three radar contacts bearing 185°. At the some moment, HMS Beverley, screening on the port bow, reported enemy in sight, bearing 210°. The enemy proved to be three large destroyers. In the course of the next four hours they made five separate attempts to reach the convoy, each of which wass foiled by the aggressive tactics of the escorting destroyers desipite their great inferiority in gun power to the Germans.

On receipt of the Beverley's sighting report, Commander Richmond who was on the starboard bow of the convoy, moved across to the threatened flank and ordered the destroyers to concentrate on him. The convoy (with the corvettes and trawlers) at once carried out an emergency turn of 40° to starboard, the destroyers making smoke to cover it.

At 1400/1, HMS Bulldog turned towards the enemy on a south-westerly course, with the destroyers in line ahead in the order HMS Beagle, HMS Amazon and HMS Beverley. The Germans were at this time in line of bearing formation, about 10000 yards distant, heading towards the convoy. At 1407/1, both sides opened fire, the Germans turning together to starboard to open 'A' arcs, and the British destroyers to port to a similar course. Both sides fired torpedoes but none of them found its mark, but a track was seen to pass close astern of HMS Bulldog. After three minutes (1410/1), the Germans turned away asnd the British destroyers returned towards the convoy, making smoke. In this brief engagement HMS Amazon was hit. Her steering gear, telegraphs and one gun being put out of action, but she managed to keep control and was stationed at the rear of the line.

A quarter of an hour after this action ceased, the convoy suffered its only loss, when the Russian merchant vessel Tsiolkovsky, which was staggling from the convoy, was hit by torpedo and sink rapidly. The survivors were rescued by the Lord Middleton.

Commander Richmond, meanwhile, was keeping his destroyers between the convoy and the estimate position of the enemy. At 1433/1 they were again sighted, bearing 160° about 15000 yards off, and the second attack developed. The British destroyers again steered for them and at 1440/1 fire was opened at 12000 yards range. No hits were obtained by either side, but after five minutes the enemy turned away and the British once more retired on the convoy. By this time the convoy was well within the ice and ' in order to maintain touch the destroyers were led through lanes of open water as opportunity offered, bearing in mind that sufficient sea room to manoeuvre in action must be maintained. The presented a nice problem.'

About an hour elapsed before the enemy's next attempt. Then at 1558/1, he was sighted six miles away coming in from the eastward, bearing 115°. Commander Richmond repeated his tactics, and both sides opened fire at 1600/1. HMS Bulldog was straddled several times and slightly damaged, but after ten minutes the enemy turned away under smoke to the southward and the British again closed the convoy, by then spread out over a distance of some seven miles, as it picked its way through the heavy drift ice in single line formation.

Shortly before 1700/1 the Germans were again sighted, following a radar report from HMS Snowflake, this time bearing 146°, 20000 yards. HMS Bulldog led round towards them, fire was opened at 1658/1 and after seven minutes the enemy made smoke and turned away.

Half an hour later the Germans made their fifth and last attempt to break through. Fire was exchanged between 1736/1 and 1742/1, when they once more turned away. The British held on towards them for a few minutes till the rear destroyer disappeared into the smoke to the south-east. This was the last seen of them, shortly afterwards they were ordered to attack the damaged Edinburgh some 200 nautical miles to the eastward, and altered course accordingly. Commander Richmond of course could not know this, and for the next three hours he kept his force cruising between the supposed direction of the enemy and the convoy, while the latter was breaking its way through the ice. By 2155/1, the convoy was in open water and the destroyer resumed their screening stations.

The remainder of the passage was uneventful. Convoy PQ 15 was sighted proceeding to the eastward at 1000/2. QP 11 arrived at Reykjavik at 0700/7.

In the meantime, while convoy QP 11 was being subjected to the attacks by the German destroyers, the damaged HMS Edinburgh had been making the best of her way towards Murmansk. The first torpedo had hit the starboard side forward, causing considarable flooding. The second torpedo hit right aft and virtually blew her stern off. She had lost her rudder and the two inner shafts, but could steam at about 8 knots with the outer propellers.

HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchiy arrived about an hour after she had been hit. An attempt by HMS Forester to take her in tow failed, with no stern and seven feet down by the bow, she came rapidly into the wind as soon as she gathered headway, and parted the tow. Further attempts to aid her were then delayed while the destroyers hunted a German submarine that was sighted on the surface four miles away.

During the night of 30 April / 1 May some progress at about three knots was made by the Edinburgh taking HMS Foresight in tow and using her to control the steering. At 0600/1, however, the Russian destroyers reported that they had to return to harbour for fuel and parted company. German submarines were known to be about and in these circumstances Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter deemed it essential that both the remaining destroyers should be used for screeing. So HMS Foresight was cast off and HMS Edinburgh struggled on, steering as best she could with her engines. Left to her own devices, a persitent swing to port could only be countered by gathering sternway every few minutes and the speed of advance fell to two knots. Thus she proceeded for about 23 hours. That no enemy submarine succeeded in attacking during this anxious period is the measure of alterness of HMS Forester and HMS Foresight.

That afternoon the Bulldog's report of the German destroyer attacks came in. The probability of their shifting their attentions to HMS Edinburgh was at once realised and Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter and he gave the following instructions; ' In event of attack by German destroyers, HMS Forester and HMS Foresight are to act independently, taking every opportunity to defeat the enemy without taking undue risks to themselves in defending HMS Edinburgh. HMS Edinburgh is to proceed wherever the wind permits, probably straight into the wind. If minesweepers are present they will also be told to act independently retiring under smoke screen as necessary. HMS Edinburgh had no RDF or Director working.'

At 1800/1, the Russian escort vessel Rubin joined and six hours later the minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Hussar and Niger arrived with a Russian tug. Disappointingly, the tug was not powerful enough to tow. Eventually at 0530/2, HMS Edinburgh was again making three knots under her own power and holding a fairly steady course of 150°. She was steered by the tug fine on the starboard bow and HMS Gossamer acting as a drogue on the port quarter. HMS Niger had been detached during the night to make rendezvous with the Russian destroyers which would return after fuelling. However they did sail long after they were expected to do so and HMS Niger rejoined at 1020/2. HMS Harrier, HMS Hussar, Rubin, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester patrolled around the damaged cruiser in a circle.

The wind was north-north-east, force three. As usual there were frequent snow squalls and the visibility varied from ten to two miles. Despite the fact that enemy submarines were known to be taking up positions to intercept, and the probability of destroyer attack there seemed to be a chance of making port. But it was not to be.

At 0627/3 gunfire from HMS Hussar, then on the starboard quarter, heralded the approach of the enemy, which proved to be the three destroyers. HMS Hussar was almost immediately straddled, and fell back on HMS Edinburgh.

There ensued a series of individual actions, ships engaging whenever visibility permitted. The Germans kept about seven miles to the north-north-east of HMS Edinburgh making full use of snow squalls and smoke to get within torpedo range, and it was seldom that more than one of them was in sight at the same time.

At the first alarm HMS Edinburgh cast off the tows and went on to her maximum speed - about eight knots. Unable to steer, she circled round to port, sometimes rapidly, sometimes on a wider curve, firing with 'B' turret whenever it could be directed from the bridge on to a fleeting target. The minesweepers remained near her, engaging the enemy with their one gun salvoes whenever they appeared and looking out for enemy submarines. HMS Foresight at once steered for the gunflashes at 24 knots while HMS Forester, which was two or three miles to the westward, went on to 30 knots and steered to join her.

First blood on either side was drawn by HMS Edinburgh, which opened fire on the Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann at 0636/2. Her first salvo fell within 100 yards. The German destroyer increased speed to 31 knots, made smike and turned away, but the second salvo scored a hit, which put both engines out of action and destroyed all control instruments. This fortunate hit had a marked effect on the events of the day. She came to a stop and remained virtually out of action, while from then onwards the efforts of her consorts were largely directed towards succouring and screening her.

Meanwhile HMS Foresight had sighted an enemy destroyer, Z 24, 10000 yards off, steering straight towards her, just as HMS Edinburgh opened fire at 0836/2. At 0640/2 the range was down to 8000 yards and Commander Salter opened fire on Z 24, altering course to the eastwards to open 'A' arcs. For the next eight minutes all three enemy destroyers were playing hide and seek in the snow and their own smoke screens. Targets were engaged as and when they came into vision, ranges varying between 6000 and 8000 yards.

HMS Forester was also fighting under much the same conditions, but shestood on to the northward when HMS Foresight turned to open her 'A' arcs. At 0650/1 she fired torpedoes. almost at the same moment she received three hits. One in No.1 boiler room brought her to a standstill. One put 'B' gun out of action and killed the Commanding Officer and one on 'X' gun shattered its breech mechanism. At 0653/2, torpedoes were seen passing underneath the ship in the direction of HMS Edinburgh which was then about five miles north-west of HMS Foresight which had just, at 0648/2, altered away from the enemy to the westward, in order to close HMS Edinburgh. Seeing HMS Forester stopped and on fire, Commander Salter steered to her assistance. HMS Forester with her sole remaining gun and her 1st Lieutenant now in Command, was engaging the stationary Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann some three miles to the northward, and shifted to the other destroyers whenever they appeared from the snow. HMS Foresight had closed to within half a mile by 0700/2, and then turned to an easterly course, so as not to foul the Forester's range, and engaged on of the destroyers which had been firing on her.

Just at this time, 0702/2, HMS Edinburgh was torpedoed. The torpedoes were seen breaking surface as they approached. These was nothing she could do to avoid them but it looked as if her eccentric gyrations would take her clear. However her 'luck' was out. One torpedo, which was running deep, struck her port side amidships at a point practically opposite one of the former hits. She immediately listed to port and gradually came to a standstill. The ship was 'open from side to side'. It was clear that she might break in two and sink at any moment, and Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter ordered HMS Gossamer alongside to take off the wounded and passanger. HMS Edinburgh nevertheless continued to engage the enemy whenever they appeared. Her shooting was described by the Z 24 as 'extra-ordinarily good' and twice deterred her from going to the assistance of the Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann. However the list was increasing and when it reached 17° her guns would no longer bear. The Rear-Admiral then directed Captain Faulkner to abandon ship.

Meanwhile HMS Foresight after engaging her opponent for five minutes again turned to the westward and seeing HMS Forester being heavily straddled, passed between her and the enemy, drawing their fire. At 0714/2, Commander Salter, altered course to close the range, and a few minutes later fired a salvo of torpedoes (which missed) at the Z 7 / Herman Schoemann. Just afterwards he came under a heavy concentration of fire from Z 24 and Z 25 at 4000 yards range. He increased to full speed and tried to get away under smoke, but received four hits, one of them in No.3 boiler, which brought the ship to a standstill at 0724/2 in welter of steam and smoke with only one gun still in action.

The Edinburgh, Foresight and Forester were thus all stopped with their gun power much reduced. There seemed nothing to prevent the two comparatively undamaged German destroyers from sinking each of them separately and afterwards dealing with the slow, lightly armed minesweepers at their leisure. But though they made repeated attacks on the destroyers with heavy but fortunate inaccurate fire, they did not press home their advantage. Their main concern was with the Hermann Schoemann. Already thee attempts by the Z 24 to go alongside and take off her ship's company had been foiled by British gunfire, and they let the opportunity pass.

Ten minutes after HMS Foresight stopped, HMS Forester managed to get underway (0735/2). At the same time Z 24 and Z 25 again opened fire on her but they soon disappeared into smoke, emerging a few minutes later to concentrate on HMS Foresight. This gave HMS Forester an opportunity to repay the debt she owned for the respite HMS Foresight had afforded her earlier in the day, and, zigzagging between her and the enemy, she covered her with a heavy efficient smoke screen. This was the close of the action. Shortly afterwards Z 24 finally managed to get alongside Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann and took off about 200 survivors. The latter - already in a sinking condition - was then scuttled, and the Z 24 and Z 25 (which had received a hit in her wireless room) withdrew at high speed to the north-west and were lost to view by the British around 0820/2.

Meanwhile HMS Foresight had effected temporary repairs and by 0815/2 was proceeding slowly on the port engine. HMS Edinburgh had been abandoned by 0800/15, HMS Gossamer taking about 440 men and HMS Harrier, in which Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter hoisted his flag, about 350. Meanwhile HMS Hussar was screening them and laying a smoke screen. Attempts by HMS Harrier to sink the cruiser by gunfire and depth charges failed so HMS Foresight was ordered to finish her off with her last remaining torpedo. This she did and all ships then shaped course for the Kola Inlet where they arrived without further incident the next day.

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To provide distant cover for these convoys a heavy cover force was deployed which departed Scapa Flow around 2200/28 and was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruisers USS Wichita (Capt. H.W. Hill, USN), USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. L.P. Johnson, USN), light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN), destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), USS Wilson (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Sturges, USN), USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN), USS Madison (Lt.Cdr. W.B. Ammon, USN), USS Plunkett (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Standley, Jr., USN) and the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN),HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN) and HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN).

At 0600/30, they were joined by the destroyers HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN) which came from Seidisfiord. HMS Inglefield, USS Wilson, USS Wainwright, USS Madison and USS Plunkett then proceeded to Seidisfiord to refuel.

They rejoined the fleet in the afternoon. Another destroyer, HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), had come with them. The four escort destroyers were then detached to return to Scapa Flow.

At 1550/1, in very bad visibility, HMS Punjabi ended up in front of HMS King George V which could not avoid a collision and cut HMS Punjabi in half. The aft part sank immediately and there was no time to set the ready depth charges to safe which as a result exploded also causing damage to HMS King George V. The front part of HMS Punjabi took 40 minutes to sink during which time HMS Martin and HMS Marne managed to take off 5 officers and 201 ratings.

As a result of the damage to HMS King George V, the battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet) departed from Hvalfiord, around 2045/1, to take her place in the cover force. HMS Duke of York was escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN) and HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN). They made rendezvous with the cover force around 2330/2 after which HMS King George V parted company at 0006/3 and proceeded to Seidisfiord escorted by HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi. They arrived at Seidisfjord around 1100/3. HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi then rejoined the fleet, having also fuelled at Seidisfiord, around 0610/4.

At 1800/4, USS Washington, HMS Wichita, USS Tuscaloosa, USS Wilson, USS Wainwright, USS Madison and USS Plunkett were detached to Hvalfiord where they arrived around 0815/6.

Around 2100/5, HMS Duke of York, HMS Victorious, HMS Kenya, HMS Inglefield, HMS Faulknor, HMS Escapade, HMS Eskimo, HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi arrived at Scapa Flow. (5)

29 Apr 1942
Around 0500Z/29, A close cover force made up of the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN), the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Steward, RN), HNoMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill, RNorN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfiord to join convoy PQ 15 which they did early on 30 April.

[For more info on this convoy see the event ' Convoys PQ 15 and QP 11 and the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi ' for 26 April 1942.] (6)

12 May 1942

Attempted passage of the damaged light cruiser HMS Trinidad from northern Russia to Iceland.

Timespan: 12 May to 17 May 1942.

12 May 1942.

Shortly before midnight on this day a cruiser cover force departed Seidisfiord to provide cover during the passage of the damaged light cruiser HMS Trinidad (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CVO, DSO, RN) from northern Russia to Iceland. After the passage to Iceland it had been intended to send Trinidad to the Philadelphia Navy Yard in the U.S.A. for full repairs. This cruiser cover force was made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN), light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN) HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN).

Earlier this day, in the early morning, HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN) had departed Hvalfiord, Iceland to join the other cruisers at sea which she did shortly after midnight the following morning.

13 May 1942.

In the evening the damaged HMS Trinidad departed Murmansk for the U.S.A. via Hvalfiord, Iceland. She had a close escort made up of the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, OBE, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Huddart, RN).

14 May 1942.

Around 0730 hours, HMS Trinidad, was spotted by enemy aircraft. She was shadowed from then on and Soviet air support, that had been promised failed to show up. At 2200 hours she was attacked by JU 88's dive bombers. After about 25 attacks the force did not sustain serious damage although many ships had been near-missed. About ten torpedo aircraft then attacked at 2237 hours. Then at 2245 hours a lone Ju 88 attacked from the clouds and released a bomb from the height of 400 feet which hit HMS Trinidad right in the area where her previous damage had been starting a serious fire. She was able to avoid the torpedoes that had been fired at her by the torpedo bombers. Trinidad soon took on a 14 degree list to starboard but was still able to make 20 knots.

Shortly before midnight HMS Inglefield and HMS Escapade were detached by the cruiser cover force and set course to proceed to the Kola Inlet to reinforce the escort of the upcoming convoy QP 12.

15 May 1942. In the early morning however the fire in HMS Trinidad got out of control. In the end the ship had to be abandoned and was scuttled at 0120 hours by three torpedoes from HMS Matchless in position 73°35'N, 22°53'E.

Also in the early morning hours ships from the Home Fleet departed Scapa Flow to provide distant cover for HMS Trinidad during the later part of her passage. These ships were; battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN) destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSC, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt. R.deL. Brooke, RN).

The US battleship USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, with Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN on board), heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. L.P. Johnson, USN) and the destroyers USS Mayrant (Cdr. C.C. Hartman, USN), USS Rhind (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Read, USN), and USS Rowan (Lt.Cdr. B.R. Harrison, Jr., USN) departed Hvalfiord, Iceland to make rendez-vous at sea with the ships from the Home Fleet.

The cruiser cover force was attacked by German aircraft (about 25 Ju 88's) for over an hour in the early evening. Many near misses were obtained but none of the ships was hit. By this time the cruiser force had been joined by HMS Somali, HMS Matchless, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester.

16 May 1942.

HMS Inglefield and HMS Escapade arrived at the Kola Inlet.

Both the cruiser cover force as the battlefleet were sighted and reported by enemy aircraft on this day but no attacks followed.

HMS Somali, HMS Matchless, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester, which all had survivors from Trinidad on board, were detached by the cruiser cover force with orders to proceed to Seidisfiord, Iceland to fuel and then to proceed to the Clyde.

17 May 1942.

HMS Somali, HMS Matchless, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester all arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel. After doing so they departed for the Clyde A.M. HMS Forester which had some wounded survivors from Trinidad on board that required immediate surgery was later diverted to Scapa Flow where she arrived on the 18th. The other three destroyers arrived at the Clyde on the 19th.

The cruiser cover force; HMS Nigeria (flag), HMS Liverpool, HMS Kent, HMS Norfolk, HMS Onslow and HMS Icarus arrived at Hvalfiord early in the afternoon.

The battlefleet; HMS Duke of York (flag), USS Washington, HMS Victorious, HMS London, USS Tuscaloosa, Faulknor, HMS Fury, HMS Eclipse, HMS Marne, HMS Oribi, USS Mayrant, USS Rhind, USS Rowan, HMS Wheatland, HMS Blankney, HMS Middleton and HMS Lamerton also arrived at Hvalfiord around the same time. (3)

23 May 1942
Around 1730/23, HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), departed Scapa Flow for Hvalfiord, Iceland. She is escorted by HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) and HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN).

They were followed around 2215 by HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) which was to overtake and join HMS Renown and her escorting destroyers.

HMS Cumberland joined at 0720/24.

All ships arrived at Hvalfiord around 1100/25. (7)

3 Jun 1942
The light cruisers HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN) departed Scapa Flow for the Clyde where they arrived the next day.

Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN hoisted his flag on board HMS Kenya on arrival at Greenock. (8)

4 Jun 1942
Convoy WS 19 Z departed the Clyde for Gibraltar (Malta). This convoy was made up of the merchant vessels Burwan (British , 6069 GRT, built 1928), Chant (American, 5601 GRT, built 1938), Orari (British, 10350 GRT, built 1931), Tanimbar (Dutch, 8169 GRT, built 1930) and Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921).

Escort was provided by HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and ORP Kujawiak (Lt. L. Lichodziejewski).

The convoy arrived off Gibraltar on 12 June 1942.

[For further proceedings of this convoy see the 'event', 'Operation Harpoon', for 12 June 1942.] (8)

12 Jun 1942

Operation Harpoon. Supply convoy to Malta from Gibraltar.


Timespan: 12 to 18 June 1942.

During March and April 1942 Malta had been attacked very heavily by the German and Italian air forces and was in much need of supplies. It was therefore decided that two convoy’s were to be sent, one from the west (Harpoon) and one from the east (Vigorous). This was to increase the chance of success as the enemy would have to split force if they want to attack both convoys. Also a group of minesweepers were to be sent to Malta.

Below we will give the events regarding the Harpoon convoy in chronological order.

12 June 1942.

Western Mediterranean (Harpoon convoy)

During the night convoy WS 19 Z passed the Straits of Gibraltar. This convoy had departed the Clyde on June 6th. It was made up of five merchant vessels; Burwan (British , 6069 GRT, built 1928), Chant (American, 5601 GRT, built 1938), Orari (British, 10350 GRT, built 1931), Tanimbar (Dutch, 8169 GRT, built 1930) and Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921).

Off Gibraltar the tanker Kentucky (American , 9308 GRT, built 1942) joined the convoy.

Close escort was provided by ‘Force X’ which was made up of the AA-cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), ORP Kujawiak (Lt. L. Lichodziejewski), minesweepers HMS Hebe (Lt.Cdr. G. Mowatt, RD, RN), HMS Speedy (Lt. J.G. Brookes, RN), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RN), HMS Hythe (Lt.Cdr. L.B. Miller, RN) and the motor launches (ML’s) ML 121 (group commander Lt.Cdr. E.J. Strowlger, RNVR), ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462.

Also operating with ‘Force X’ was the fast minelayer HMS Welshman (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN).

Distant cover was provided by ‘Force W’ which was made up of the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), light cruisers HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), AA-cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN) and HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN). This force was to cover the convoy until off the Skerki Channel, the entrance to the Sicily-Tunis Narrows. The cover forces for this convoy were however rather weak. For instance the aircraft carriers were rather old and had hardly enough fighters available to provide a decent air patrol.

Then there was also a tanker force to fuel the escorts ‘Force Y’. It was made up of the RFA oiler Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941), escorted by two corvettes; HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).

Besides these forces four submarines were on patrol in the western Mediterranean. They were stationed between Sardinia and Sicily. These were HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 43 (Lt. A.C. Halliday, RN) and HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN).

By 0800 hours on the 12th force was in full strength and proceeded eastwards at 12 to 13 knots.

The remainder of the day was uneventful except for the sighting of a Spanish merchant vessel in the evening.

13 June 1942.

On this day the convoy was shadowed continuously by German and Italian aircraft. Also it was thought an Italian submarine might have spotted the convoy but was not the case as of yet.

HMS Cairo and almost all the destroyers and escort destroyers oiled from Brown Ranger and HMS Liverpool. This was completed late in the evening.

Italian warships reported to be at sea.

Two Italian cruisers and five destroyers had been reported at daybreak (actually six detroyers were present). These were the light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and the destroyers Alfredo Oriani, Vincenzo Gioberti, Ascari, Ugolino Vivaldi, Nicolò Zeno and Premuda. They had sailed on the 13th from Cagliari, Sardinia. The most western British submarine on patrol HMS P 43 had attacked them at 1931 hours on the 13th. She claimed to have hit a cruiser but this was obviously not the case. Two hours later the next submarine on the patrol line HMS P 211 also sighted this Italian force but was too far off to attack.

14 June 1942.

During the night the force was spotted and reported by an Italian submarine. In fact two Italian submarines made attacks on the convoy during the night. These were the Uarsciek at 0152 hours (zone -2) which fired two torpedoes at a destroyer in position 38°02'N, 05°06'E. Both torpedoes missed. Then at 0505 hours, the Giada fired four torpedoes at an aircraft carrier (probably HMS Eagle although this carrier did not report hearing torpedo explosions and HMS Argus did) and a cruiser or battleship in position 37°55'N, 06°12'E. She claimed two hits but in fact all torpedoes missed.

At dawn enemy shadowing aircraft appeared once more. The convoy was approaching the danger area for air attacks coming from Sardinia. At 1000 hours the first radar warning came and at about the same time fighters from Eagle shot down an Italian torpedo aircraft. More of these aircraft were seen gathering about 20 miles from the convoy and form up for attack.

It was a bright and clear morning with hardly a cloud in the sky. There was little wind but such as there was came from the west and this made it difficult for the British fighter crews, especially for those from the 25-year old Argus with her small margin of speed, unless she would turn into the wind and leave the destroyer screen.

The convoy was steering east in two columns in line ahead. HMS Kenya was leading the port column while HMS Liverpool was leading the starboard one. Astern of the convoy was HMS Malaya with HMS Welshman astern of her. The aircraft carriers were operating independently to port of the convoy. Each carrier had an AA cruiser and a destroyer as escort. HMS Eagle was with HMS Cairo and HMS Wishart while HMS Argus was with HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette.

The remaining fifteen destroyers and four minesweepers formed an all-round screen spread from three to three and a half miles from the convoy. This was done on purpose so that all ships could fire outward but also inward with a freedom that would have been impossible with a closer screen.

The air attacks began at 1030 hours. The first was a shallow dive-bombing attack by two groups, each of four or five Italian fighter-bombers (CR. 42). One group approached from astern at 12000 feet and diving to 6000 feet. The other group came from ahead at 6000 feet and dropped their bombs from 3000 to 4000 feet. Their target was HMS Argus and her consorts on the port beam of HMS Malaya. No damage was done, only one bomb fell close to HMS Charybdis. Two of the enemy planes were shot down after their attack by Fulmar’s from Eagle which were controlled by the Argus and afterwards landed aboard her. It was the policy to employ the Hurricanes from Eagle as high fighter force and the Fulmar’s from Argus as low fighter force.

A much more serious attack followed half an hour later when 28 Savoia torpedo aircraft escorted by 20 Macchi fighters conducted a combined attack with 10 Cant. high level bombers. The Savoia approached from the northward in two waves of equal strength. The first wave came in at 1110 hours and the second soon afterwards. The firstwave passed through the destroyer screen at 500 feet above the water, rounded the rear of the convoy, and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into groups before firing. They dropped their torpedoes from a height of 100 feet at a range of 2000 yards. They hit HMS Liverpool, which was leading the starboard column, when she was turing to meet the attack. Also the Dutch merchant Tanimbar was hit in the rear and she sank within a few minutes in position 36°58’N, 07°30’E.

The second wave attacked the port column dropped their torpedoes at longer range. All torpedoes missed. The Cant. bombers also came in two formations, coming from ahead out of the sun at a height of about 10000 feet. Their targets seemed to be Eagle and Argus but none of their bombs hit.

A little before 1200 hours several torpedo planes made harmless attacks from long range. They were probably stragglers turned back by gunfire during the earlier attacks and anxious to get rid of their torpedoes before turning back to base.

Upon the whole the Italians seem to have attacked gallantly. The British fighters claimed to have shot down three enemy fighters and three torpedo aircraft. Three British fighters were lost ofwhich one was shot down in error by a ship in the screen. The convoy and escort claim to have shot down seven enemy aircraft, all Savoia SM 79’s.

HMS Liverpool was hit in the engine room and badly damaged. She could only make 3 to 4 knots on one shaft. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar being towed by HMS Antelope and screened by HMS Westcott. A long voyage during which the first 24 hours she was attacked from the air. At 1640 hours, five CR. 42 fighter-bombers attacked from astern out of the sun, luckily without hitting, though one or two bombs fell close enough to increase the ships list. At 1800 hours, the tow having parted, there was a harmless attempt by eleven high-level bombers followed by an equally harmless attempt by seven torpedo aircraft which were heavily escorted by fighters. The Liverpool and Westcott each claimed to have destroyed a torpedo plane.

At 2015 hours, now once more in tow, fife high-level bombers attacked but their bombs fell wide.

At 2230 hours, six torpedo bombers made a twilight attack from very long range only to loose one of their number to the barrage HMS Liverpool put up.

The fruitless attacks on the damaged Liverpool in the afternoon and evening of the 14th evidently occupied the remaining aircraft available to the enemy in Sardinia for as the convoy was able to continue without being attacked. It was however still being shadowed and came within range of the Sicilian air bases in the evening.

HMS Welshman had replaced HMS Liverpool at the head of the starboard column of the convoy. She however parted company with the convoy around 2000 hours to continue the passage to Malta on her own at high speed.

At 1820 hours German bombers appeared, about ten Ju. 88’s approached the convoy from astern at 10000 feet and then dived to 6000 feet to make the attack. Both carriers had narrow escapes, Argus in particular. A bomb pitched fine on her port bow, dived under the ship and exploded on the starboard bow. No ship was damaged however. No enemy aircraft were shot down. Six British fighters however harassed the enemy and forced several of them to release their bombs prematurely. One Fulmar was lost.

As in the morning the shallow dive-bombing attack preluded a heavy combined torpedo and bombing attack but in the evening the lapse of time was greater and dive-bombers as well as high level-bombers took part in the massed attack. It was a combination of Italians and Germans. 16 Savoia 79 bombers heavily escorted by Macchi fighters with 10 Ju 88’s and 15 Ju 87’s. The first to appear were the Savoia’s which approached from the north-east to port at about 2000 hours. They were flying well above the water. Worked their way around the stern of the convoy outside gun range to glide down and attack on the starboard side. In the meantime, a few minutes after the Savoia’s had been sighted, two groups of Ju 88’s came in from ahead at 12000 feet and dropped their bombs without effect as they flew across the screen and along the columns of the convoy. Next the Ju 87’s arrived on the port bow and attacked the port wing of the screen, diving from 7000 to 1000 feet. They narrowly missed HMS Icarus and HMS Wrestler, though they had probably hoped to reach HMS Eagle. These dive bombers took most of the attention of the screen but then at 2020 hours the Italian torpedo-bombers came in. Most of them concentrated onHMS Malaya, HMS Argus, HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette. They managed to drop three torpedoes within 300 yards from the carrier but she still managed to avoid them.

Around the time of these attacks HMS Middleton sighted a periscope and dropped a depth charge. Two other destroyers then hauled out of the screen and dropped depth charges. The periscope was next sighted by HMS Malaya after which HMS Speedy obtained an Asdic contact and attacked with depth charges in position 37°39’N, 09°35’E, claiming to have destroyed the enemy submarine.

This was the last encounter with the enemy before ‘Force W’ would separate from the convoy which was then to continue on to Malta only escorted by ‘Force X’.

As the convoy reached the entrance of the Narrows at 2100 hours, four Beaufighters arrived from Malta to relieve the hard worked naval aviators of the carriers. Around this time the Italian submarine Alagi attacked an aircraft carrier with two stern torpedoes in position 37°36'N, 09°53'E which both missed. The attack was not reported by either of the carriers and was probably not observed. Half an hour later ‘Force W’ turned westwards. The convoy continued eastwards with A/Capt. Hardy of HMS Cairo in command. For the passage of the Tunisian coast the five remaining merchant vessels formed a single line ahead with ‘Force X’ screening them.

At 2205 hours, as it was getting dark, eight Ju 88’s made a shallow dive-bombing attack dropping down from 6000 to 3000 feet to release their bombs. No hits were obtained. They lost two aircraft, one was shot down by a Beaufighter and the ther by gunfire from the ships. This was the end of this day’s fighting.

The Italian ships that had been reported to be at sea the previous day.

On receiving the submarines reports Vice-Admiral Leatham at Malta arranged for a striking force of Wellington aircraft to attack the enemy. Aircraft again sighted the enemy north-west of Cape San Vito, Sicily at 0255/14. At 0525/14 the enemy was sighted off Palermo. At 1800/14 two cruisers were reported to be in the harbour there. At dusk, at 2125 hours, two cruisers and four destroyers were reported to be leaving Palermo harbour but their course was not reported. Vice-Admiral Leatham judged that they were proceeding to the east to join the main Italian battlefleet that had left Taranto that same evening to operate against the ‘Vigorous-convoy’ in the eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly he stationed a naval air patrol over the Strait of Messina, with a naval air striking force at Malta standing by to attack.

‘Force W’

Vice-Admiral Curteis, who was taking ‘Force W’ westwards, also received the report of the enemy leaving Palermo and had to decide whether to strengthen ‘Force X’ with either one or both his cruisers, HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis. He was then, at 2315/24, in position 37°30’N, 09°30’E, over 50 nautical miles from the convoy, which would be a further 100 nautical miles further on to the east by dawn on the 15th. He also judged that the Italian ships would be unlikely to be danger to the convoy and that the escort would be strong enough ‘to deter them from doing any harm’ escpecially as it would be expected that the Italians would be attacked from the air by aircraft from Malta. Apart from this he was anxious for the safety of his aircraft carriers, which would need the cruisers support while within striking distance from the enemy air bases in Sardinia. Furthermore there was barely time to overtake the convoy before by the morning. With the force available a decision either way was a gamble this might have been different had Liverpool not been torpedoed. He therefore decided against sending any reinforcement to the convoy.

15 June 1942.

Action south of Pantellaria

A/Capt. Hardy, the convoy escort commander in HMS Cairo first knew of the presence of the enemy through the report of a Beaufighter which was on it’s way to patrol above the convoy and which at 0620 hours reported two cruisers and four destroyers to be 15 nautical miles on the port beam of the convoy. The convoy at that time was stearing at 12 knots to the south-east. The merchantmen were formed in two columns again, with HMS Cairo ahead, the five ‘Fleet’ destroyers in the screen to starboard and the four ‘Hunt’s’ to port. The minesweepers and the ML’s were astern of the convoy. A few minutes later the Italian ships were sighted hull down against the brightening sky to the eastward. They were broad on the port bow and drawing ahead of the convoy at high speed. It was now also seen that there were five destroyers present instead of the reported four. Commander Scurfield (in HMS Bedouin led out the ‘Fleet’ destroyers to attack while HMS Cairo and the remainder of the convoy escort started making smoke to cover the merchant ships, which were ordered to turn to starboard and to seek shelter in Tunisian waters. It was A/Capt. Hardy’s intention to gain as much time as possible to enable an air striking force from Malta to attack the enemy.

At 0640 hours, the Italian cruisers opened fire at a range of over 20000 yards. Their second salvo straddled HMS Cairo and others fell near the convoy before the smoke screen could take effect. The British ships could not yet reply as the enemy was still out of range. As the ‘Fleet’ destroyers gathered way, they became strung out in a loose line of bearing, nearly line ahead, in the order HMS Bedouin, HMS Partridge, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless, though the last ship worked up to 32 knots in the endeavour to keep up. The first to destroyers opened fire on the enemy cruisers at 0645 hours with their guns at maximum elevation but in a quarter of an hour both Bedouin and Partridge were badly hit and stopped and the fight passed them by. Ithuriel held her fire till she got within 15000 yards, then she engaged a cruiser, which she eventually hit at a range of 8000 yards. Marne also engaged a cruiser, opening fire at over 18000 yards. In the meantime the Italian destroyers had fallen astern of the cruisers, three of them, in fact, soon left the line and disappeared to the northward. The last two enemy destroyers opened fire on the Marne from her port beam at around 0700 hours and she and Matchless, which was astern of her, replied. Both British destroyers soon found the range and hit one of the enemy (Ugolino Vivaldi) and drove them off. They then pressed on to engage the enemy cruisers which kept their distance and were zig-zagging and making smoke to upset the aim of the British ships.

As soon as the convoy was well behind the smoke screen and on it’s way to the westward. HMS Cairo and the four Hunt class escort destroyers were proceeding south and now also engaged the two enemy destroyers which had been engaged by Marne and Matchless. At about 0700 hours HMS Cairo came under fire from the enemy cruisers again. They were using two turrets each to engage the Cairo and two turrets to engage the ‘Fleet’ destroyers. HMS Cairo was hit by a 6” shell. She herself fired her 4” guns occasionally, though without much hope of doing real damage to the enemy.

At 0715 hours, A/Capt. Hardy decided to concentrate the remaining three ‘Fleet’ destroyers on HMS Cairo and ordered HMS Ithuriel to join him. HMS Marne and HMS Matchless continued to engage the enemy for about half an hour. Though fire from both sides was accurate no hits were obtained on either side. At 0745 hours the Italians turned to port on which A/Capt. Hardy turned north and ordered all destroyers to join him.

Meanwhile, the convoy, 15 nautical miles away to the north-west, steering westwards, now turned to the south-east again. At 0705 hours, now deprived of the support of HMS Cairo, all destroyers and escort destroyers, and without air support, the convoy was attacked by eight German JU 87 dive bombers. They sank the Chant and disabled the Kentucky. HMS Hebe took the Kentucky in tow. The convoy then went on until 0745 hours when course was changed to rejoin the escorts. The Italians however meanwhile where following the British escorts and kept them under fire.

At 0834 hours, A/Capt. Hardy, ordered the convoy to reverse course while Cairo and the destroyers laid a smokescreen across it’s track. This seems to have baffled the Italians which first turned to the south-west and then at 0840 hours hauled round to the north-eastward and stood away. A/Capt. Hardy then sent the ‘Hunt’-class escort destroyers to rejoin the convoy and then led the ‘Fleet’ destroyers after the enemy. At this time HMS Cairo was hit for the second time. For the present however the Italians had given up the game. By 0930 hours they were out of sight and the British ships then turned to rejoin the convoy.

At 1030 hours the merchant vessel were back on their proper course to Malta, with the escort at full strength except for HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge. Long-range Spitfires from Malta were patrolling overhead.

At 1040 hours a few German bombers appeared but these were driven off before they could drop their bombs. The fighters were able to shot one down. Unfortunately this exhausted fuel and ammunition of the Spitfires which were operating at their extreme range so when at 1120 hours another attack started they were not able to repel it. Their relief had not yet arrived.

It was a combination of high-level and dive bombing by Ju. 88’s and Ju. 87’s. Gunfire destroyed one of the German’s. One or two were shot down afterwards by the relieving Spitfires which had arrived during the attack. By then however the merchant vessel Burdwan was disabled. There was still 150 nautical miles to go, with the likelihood of further attacks from the air and with Italian ships nearby. A/Capt. Hardy therefore decided that he had no other choice then to sacrifice the damaged Kentucky and Burdwan as the best way to save the rest of the convoy whose speed would otherwise be reduced to six knots. He ordered HMS Hebe and HMS Badsworth to sink the cripples which enabled the remaining two merchant ships to continue at their best speed.

At 1315 hours, dive-bombers attacked yet again. And again there was no fighter cover present over the convoy. This time however the German’s were unsuccessful. One bomber out of twelve was shot down by the ships AA fire while the relief flight of Spitfires came in time to shoot down two more as the enemy retired. This was the last time the convoy was attacked from the air before it arrived at Malta under the protection from short-range Spitfires. The next threat of attack came from the Italian warships which closed the convoy once more.

After the engagement in the morning the Italian cruisers had gone back to join up with their destroyers, one of wich had been badly damaged by HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. While preparing to take this destroyer in tow the Italians were disrupted by British aircraft. Malta had been able to sent a small torpedo aircraft force to attack them. Four Albacores followed by two Beauforts attacked them about 12 nautical miles south of Pantelleria at 1030 hours. Unfortunately without success.

The two cruisers with two destroyers then went south again hoping to find stagglers from the convoy. They found HMS Hebe, which was on her way back to rejoin the convoy, having left the tanker Kentucky in a sinking condition astern. HMS Hebe sighted the enemy a long way to the north at 1255 hours. In the next half an hour the enemy was able to close as to open fire on the small minesweeper and eventually she was hit.

On receiving Hebe’s enemy report, A/Capt. Hardy, left the convoy in HMS Cairo taking the three remaining ‘Fleet’ destroyers with him; HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. Besides the Hebe to protect there were other ships coming back from the scuttled merchantmen and also HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge which, A/Capt. Hardy believed to be following the convoy.

At 1355 hours the Italians gave up the chase, presumably on sighting HMS Cairo and turned to engage a target to the westward. This could only be HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge but A/Capt. Hardy felt bound to return to the convoy, then nearly 15 nautical miles off, though it meant leaving the damaged destroyers to their fate.

These two ships had been had been striving to preserve themselves for the King’s service ever since they had been crippled in the morning. HMS Partridge was ready to steam again by 0745 hours, three-quarters of an hour after being put out of action. She prepared to take HMS Bedouin in tow as that ship was entirely disabled. These preparations were disrupted by two Italian destroyers which had to be driven away. By 1000 hours however Bedouin was being towed by Partridge and the two ships were proceeding slowly towards the convoy which they had orders to join. They met it at 1145 hours. There was still hope to get one engine going in HMS Bedouin but later on it became evident that this hope had to be abandoned. It was then thought best to try to make it to Gibraltar.

At 1320 hours, the Italian Squadron came into sight again and two destroyers were apparently closing the two British destroyers while there were also enemy dive-bombers flying around. HMS Partridge therefore had no choice then to slip the tow and to lay smoke around HMS Bedouin. As the enemy cruisers approached, after their chase of HMS Hebe, HMS Partridge stood away to draw their fire and in this she succeeded. She was straddled from long range at 1400 hours. It was the intention the return to HMS Bedouin later but the latter ship was torpedoed by an Italian torpedo bomber at 1425 hours and she sank within a few minutes but not before shooting down the attacker. The enemy surface ships also sank the derelict Kentucky and Burdwan around the same time. Kentucky was finished off by the Oriani while Burdwan was possibly sunk by the Ascari.

A/Capt. Hardy rejoined the convoy at 1530 hours after the last encounter with the Italian squadron. At 1730 hours, HMS Welshman rejoined the convoy south of Linosa coming from Malta. She had arrived there in the morning and was sent out again by Vice-Admiral Leatham as soon as she had landed her cargo.

Then at 1910 hours, there was another air attack. Upon that time the enemy had been kept away by the strong fighter escort from Malta directed by the radar in HMS Cairo. Twelve German bombers managed to close and near misses were obtained on HMS Welshman, HMS Matchless and the merchant Troilus.

A last attempt was foiled at 2040 hours by the fighters from Malta and the ships guns. There was now only one danger to be overcome, enemy mines.

HMS Liverpool

At 1420 hours, three torpedo aircraft made a final unsuccessful attempt to attack HMS Liverpool after which she, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott were not again molested. That afternoon the tug HMRT Salvonia arrived from Gibraltar and they took over the tow. Antelope then joined Westcott as A/S screen. With Salvonia came also the A/S trawler HMS Lady Hogarth (T/Lt. S.G. Barnes, RNR).

'Force Y'.

At 2345 hours the Italian submarine Bronzo sighted an enemy escort vessel of the 'Kingfisher-class' which opened fire on the submarine in position 36°50'N, 00°10'E. This was HMS Coltsfoot. The submarine was depth-charged and escaped by going down to 117 metres.

16 June 1942.

It had been intended that the minesweepers would be ahead of the convoy when approaching Malta but owning to mistakes the convoy arrived first. The result was that one of the two remaining merchant vessels, the Orari, the destroyer HMS Matchless, two escort destroyers HMS Badsworth, ORP Kujawiak and the minesweeper HMS Hebe hit mines. Fortunately damage was light except for ORP Kujawiak which unfortunately sank in three minutes.

After having taken on board ammunition at Malta, HMS Cairo, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne, HMS Middleton and HMS Blankney departed the island in the evening to return to Gibraltar.

HMS Liverpool

Shortly after 0800 hours, the destroyer HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) joined the A/S screen of the disabled HMS Liverpool. Two more vessels came out from Gibraltar to join the A/S screen, these were the corvette HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR) which joined around 0940 hours. At 1530 hours, the motor launch ML 458 joined.

17 June 1942.

As HMS Cairo and the two destroyers and two escort destroyers were skirting along the African coast they were shadowed from sunrise onward. They were however not attacked until midday, when they were passed the Galita bank. From then until 2030 hours that evening, German bombers pestered them continuously. The Germans came sometimes in flights of six, though generally in flights of two and three. Main target seems to have been HMS Ithuriel which had a tough time and sustained some minor damage due to leaks from near misses. During the attacks one enemy bomber was shot down by HMS Cairo.

At 2017 hours, they joined with Vice-Admiral Curteis with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis in position 37°30’N, 04°30’E. After leaving the convoy in the evening of the 14th, the Vice-Admiral had taken ‘Force W’ some 400 nautical miles to the west of Sardinia in order to avoid observation and attack while waiting for the return of ‘Force X’. His ships had however been shadowed on the 15th and was then attacked by two small groups of torpedo aircraft. Hurricanes from HMS Eagle forced them to drop their torpedoes from long range. They were also able to shoot down one of the attackers.

From the morning of the 16th to noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, cruised with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis near the rendez-vous position. HMS Malaya both aircraft carriers and the remaining destroyers had been sent to Gibraltar around 0800/16. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1030/17.

Around noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, with his two cruisers proceeded eastwards to meet up with A/Capt. Hardy’s force after which they proceeded in company to Gibraltar where they arrived in the early evening of the 18th.

HMS Liverpool

HMS Liverpool and her escorts safely arrived at Gibraltar late in the afternoon of the 17th. (9)

2 Aug 1942

Convoy WS 21S and Operation Pedestal.

Convoy WS 21S and the concentration of the escort forces

Convoy WS 21S departed the Clyde on 2 August 1942. The convoy was made up of the following ships;
American freighters;
Almeria Lykes (7773 GRT, built 1940), Santa Elisa (8379 GRT, built 1941), British freighters;
Brisbane Star (12791 GRT, built 1937), Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Dorset (10624 GRT, built 1934), Empire Hope (12688 GRT, built 1941), Glenorchy (8982 GRT, built 1939), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933), Rochester Castle (7795 GRT, built 1937), Waimarama (12843 GRT, built 1938), Wairangi (12436 GRT, built 1935), and the American tanker;
Ohio (9264 GRT, built 1940).

These ships were escorted by light cruisers HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of the Rear-Admiral 10th C.S., H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) and the destroyers HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Stewart, RN), HMS Wolverine (Lt.Cdr. P.W. Gretton, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Malcolm (A/Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN), HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN) and HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN).

A cover force made up of departed Scapa Flow on the same day. This force was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN) and HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN). They were to rendez-vous with convoy WS 21S at sea on 3 August. HMS Penn was delayed by a defect and after topping off with fuel at Moville, Northern Ireland overtook the force and joined at sea.

The aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) meanwhile had already left Scapa Flow on 31 July 1941 to rendez-vous with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN). These ships were joined at sea on 1 August 1942 by the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, RN), loaded with spare fighter aircraft for the operation, and her two escorts the destroyers HMS Buxton (Lt.Cdr. I.J. Tyson, RD, RNR) and HMS Sardonyx (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Gray, RNR). HMS Argus and her two escorting destroyers had departed the Clyde on 31 July. HMS Buxton later split off and proceeded towards Canada and HMS Sardonyx proceeded to Londonderry.

The last ships to take part in the operation to depart the U.K. (Clyde around midnight during the night of 4/5 August) were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), loaded with Hurricane fighters for Malta, and her escorts, the light cruiser HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN) and the Polish destroyer ORP Blyscawica (Lt.Cdr. L. Lichodziejewski, ORP). They were joined at sea, around dawn, by HMS Sardonyx coming from Londonderry. The destroyers parted company around midnight during the night of 5/6 August. They arrived at Londonderry on 7 August. HMS Furious and HMS Manchester then joined convoy WS 21S around midnight of the next night but HMS Manchester parted company shortly afterwards to proceed ahead of the convoy and fuel at Gibraltar.

On 1 August 1942 the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN), light cruiser HMS Phoebe (Capt. C.P. Frend, RN) and the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. H.G. Walters, DSC, RN) and HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) departed Freetown to proceed to a rendez-vous position off the Azores.

On 5 August 1942, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN) and the the destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN) departed Gibraltar also to the rendez-vous position off the Azores.

The convoy conducted maneuvering and AA exercises with the escorts between the Azores and Gibraltar during the period of 6 to 9 August. (Operation Berserk). Also dummy air attacks were carried out by aircraft from the carriers.

Passage of the Straits of Gibraltar and organization of escort forces.

The convoy then passed the Straits of Gibraltar during the night of 9/10 August 1942 in dense fog but despite this the convoy was detected by German and Italian spies and reported.

After passing the Straits of Gibraltar the convoy was organized as follows;
The actual convoy was protected a large force of warships until the whole force would split up before entering the Sicilian narrows after which ‘Force X’ under command of Rear-Admiral Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN was to accompany the convoy to the approaches to Malta where they would be met by the Malta Minesweeping Flotilla, which was then to sweep the convoy into the harbour. Force X was made up of the following ships:
Licht cruisers: HMS Nigeria (flagship), HMS Kenya,, HMS Manchester.
AA cruiser: HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN).
Destroyers: HMS Ashanti, HMS Fury, HMS Foresight, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Penn.
Escort destroyers: HMS Derwent, HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN), HMS Bramham (Lt. E.F. Baines, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, RN). Also the rescue tug HMS Jaunty was to be part of this force.

After the escort was to be split up cover was provided by ‘Force Z’ under Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN. This force was made up of the following ships:
Battleships: HMS Nelson (flagship) and HMS Rodney.
Aircraft carriers: HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable and HMS Eagle.
Light cruisers: HMS Phoebe, HMS Sirius and HMS Charybdis.
Destroyers: HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Lookout, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali, HMS Tartar, HMS Quentin, HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair), HMS Wishart and HMS Vansittart. Escort destroyer: HMS Zetland. Also attached were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (for Operation Bellows, the launching of Hurricane fighters for Malta. HMS Furious only carried four Albacore aircraft for A/S searches after the Hurricanes had been launched) and the ‘spare’ destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN), HMS Malcolm, HMS Venomous, HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott, HMS Wolverine, HMS Wrestler and HMS Amazon. These ‘spare’ destroyers were to take the place of destroyers in the screen ‘Force Z’ if needed, escort HMS Furious during her return passage to Gibraltar after she had completed Operation Bellows and / or strengthen the escort of ‘Force R’.

Then there was also ‘Force R’, the fuelling force. This force was made up of the following ships:
Corvettes: HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR), HMS Spiraea (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Miller, DSC, RNR), HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).
Rescue tug: HMS Salvonia.
RFA tankers: RFA Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, Master D.B.C. Ralph) and RFA Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941, Master R.T. Duthie).

Before we give an account of the passage of the main convoy we will now first describe the operations taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean (Operations MG 3 and MG 4), the launching of the Hurricane fighters for Malta by HMS Furious (Operation Bellows) and the return convoy from Malta (Operation Ascendant) as well as on submarine operations / dispositions.

Diversion in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As part of the plan for Operation Pedestal the Mediterranean Fleet had to carry out a diversion in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Before we go to the operations in the Western Mediterranean we will first give an account of the events in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It was at this time not possible to sent any supplies from Egypt to Malta as all supplies and forces were much needed for the upcoming land battle at El Alamein it was agreed that ‘a dummy convoy’ would be sent towards Malta with the object of preventing the enemy to direct the full weight of their air and naval power towards the Western Mediterranean.

In the evening of 10 August 1942 a ‘convoy’ (MG 3) of three merchant ships departed Port Said escorted by three cruisers and ten destroyers. Next morning one more merchant ship departed Haifa escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers. The two forces joined that day (the 11th) and then turned back dispersing during the night. The Italian fleet however did not go to sea to attack ‘the bait’.

The forces taking part in this operation were:
From Port Said:
Merchant vessels City of Edinburgh (8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (8039 GRT, built 1938) and City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral I.G. Glennie, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.J.R. Dendy, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton(Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN).

From Haifa:
Merchant vessel Ajax (7797 GRT, built 1931) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), the destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.R. Rycroft, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN).

After dark on 11 August 1942 the force turned back and the City of Pretoria returned to Port Said escorted by HMS Eridge and HMS Hursley. The City of Edinburgh, escorted by HMS Beaufort and HMS Belvoir proceeded to Haifa. The City of Lincoln escorted by HMS Dulverton and HMS Hurworth proceeded to Beirut and finally the Ajax, escorted by HMS Tetcott and HMS Croome returned to Haifa. HMS Dido had to return to Port Said with hull defects. She was escorted by HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin and HMS Jervis.

HMS Cleopatra, HMS Arethusa, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin then proceeded to carry out another diversion (Operation MG 4). They bombarded Rhodos harbour and the Alliotti Flour Mills during the night of 12/13 August but did little damage. On the way back HMS Javelin attacked a submarine contact in position 34°45’N, 31°04’E between 0654 and 0804 hours. She reported that there was no doubt that the submarine was sunk but no Axis submarines were operating in this area so the attack must have been bogus. This force returned to Haifa at 1900/13.

Operation Bellows.

During operation Bellows, the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, started 37 Spitfire which were to proceed to Malta, when south of the Balearic Islands. The Admiralty had decided to carry out this operation at the same time as Operation Pedestal.

HMS Furious remained with the convoy until 1200/11. She then launched the Spitfires for Malta in 5 batches between 1230 and 1515 hours. During these flying off operations she acted independently with the destroyers HMS Lookout and HMS Lightning. After having launched the last batch of Spitfires she briefly re-joined to convoy until around 1700 hours when she split off and set course for Gibraltar escorted by the destroyers HMS Malcolm, HMS Wolverine and HMS Wrestler. These were joined shortly afterwards by HMS Keppel and HMS Venomous.

Around 0100/12, HMS Wolverine, rammed and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur which was trying to attack HMS Furious. Around 0200 hours, HMS Wolverine reported that she was stopped due to the damage she had sustained in the ramming. HMS Malcolm was detached to assist her.

At 1530/12, the destroyer HMS Vidette joined the screen. The force then entered Gibraltar Bay around 1930/12. The damaged HMS Wolverine arrived at Gibraltar at 1230/13 followed by HMS Malcolm around 1530/13.

Operation Ascendant

On 10 August 1942 the empty transports Troilus (7648 GRT, built 1921) and Orari (10107 GRT, built 1931) departed Malta after dark for Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyer HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN). They first proceeded to the south of Lampedusa, then hugged the Tunisian coast as far as Galita Island. Near Cape Bon they encountered the Italian destroyer Lanzerotto Malocello that was laying a minefield. They had a brief gunfight but this was soon ended as both sides were thinking the enemy was Vichy-French. The remained of the passage to Gibraltar was uneventful and the convoy arrived at Gibraltar shortly before noon on 14 August 1942.

Submarine operations / dispositions.
Eight submarines took part in the operation; these were HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN), HMS P 31 (Lt. J.B.de B. Kershaw, DSO, RN), HMS P 34 (Lt. P.R.H. Harrison, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 44 (Lt. T.E. Barlow, RN), HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN), HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 222 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. MacKenzie, RN). Two of these were to carry out normal dived patrol to the north of Sicily, one off Palermo, the other off Milazzo which is futher to the east. The other six submarines were given alternative patrol lines south of Pantelleria, one od which they were to take up at dawn on 13 August 1942, according to the movements of enemy surface ships that might threathen the convoy from the westward. When the convoy had passed the patrol line, which it should have done by that time, the submarines were to proceed on the surface parallel to the convoy as a screen and to dive away clear of the convoy at noon. It was expressly intended that they should be seen on the surface and reported by enemy aircraft in order to deter enemy warships from attacking the convoy.

Enemy warships did go to sea but as soon as it was clear that the enemy ships could not reach the convoy the sunmarines were ordered to dive and retire. These six sumarines had no contact with the enemy. One of the the two submarines off the north coast of Sicily, HMS P 42, managed to torpedo two Italian cruisers near Stromboli on the morning of 13 August 1942.

Now we return to the main convoy to Malta.

Passage eastwards after passing the Straits of Gibraltar.

10 and 11 August 1942.

After passing through the Straits of Gibraltar in the early hours of 10 August 1942, in dense fog, the convoy was first sighted by an Italian passenger aircraft, which sighted the convoy in the afternoon of the same day. German reconnaissance aircraft started shadowing the convoy from dawn on the 11th, and thereafter they or Italian aircraft kept the convoy under continuous observation, despite the effort of the fighters from the carriers to shoot them down or drive them off. At 1315 hours, HMS Eagle, was hit an sunk by torpedoes from the German submarine U-73 which had penetrated the destroyer screen. At that moment there were thirteen destroyers in the screen, the remainder was away from the main convoy, escorting HMS Furious during the flying off operations of the Hurricane fighters for Malta or oiling from and screening ‘Force R’ which was several miles away. Between 1430/10 and and 2030/11 no less then three cruisers and twenty-four destroyers fuelled from the two oilers of ‘Force R’.

At the time of the torpedoing of HMS Eagle the convoy was in four columns, zigzagging at 13 knots, with the heavy ships stationed close round it and a destroyer screen ahead. HMS Eagle was on the starboard quarter of the convoy. She was hit on her starboard side by four torpedoes which had dived through the destroyer screen and the convoy columns undetected and then torpedoed and sank the Eagle in position 38°05’N, 03°02’E (Another source gives 03°12’E but this might be a typo). The carrier sank quickly in about 8 minutes, 926 of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were rescued by the destroyers HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout and the rescue tug HMS Jaunty. At the time of her sinking, HMS Eagle had four aircraft on patrol. These landed on the other carriers. All other aircraft were lost with the ship. The survivors picked up were later transferred to the destroyers HMS Keppel, HMS Malcolm and HMS Venomous that were to escort HMS Furious back to Gibraltar. The tug HMS Jaunty that had been involved in picking up survivors was never able to rejoin the convoy due to her slow speed.

Late in the afternoon air attacks were expected so Vice-Admiral Syfret ordered the destroyer to form an all-round screen. Indeed the air attacks started around sunset, 2045 hours. The last destroyers had just returned from oiling from ‘Force R’. The enemy aircraft that were attacking were 36 German bombers and torpedo aircraft, Ju 88’s and He 111’s, most of which attacked the convoy but a few attacked ‘Force R’ to the southward. The Junkers arrived first, diving down from 8000 feet to 2000 / 3000 feet to drop their bombs. They claimed to have hit an aircraft carrier and one of the merchant ships. Then the Heinkels attacked, they claimed to have torpedoed a cruiser but during the attacks no ship was hit. The British fighter cover was unable to attack / find the enemy in the failing light. Four enemy aircraft were claimed shot down by the ships AA fire but it appears only two JU 88’s were in fact shot down.

12 August 1942

At 0915/12 another wave of German aircraft attacked the convoy. Some twenty or more JU 88’s approached the convoy out of the sun ahead. They were intercepted by fighters about 25 miles from the convoy. About a dozen got through to the convoy, making high-level or shallow dive-bombing attacks individually but without any result. Eight German aircraft were claimed to be shot down by the fighters and two more by AA guns from the ships. The fighters meanwhile were also busy dealng with shadowers, three of which are claimed to have been shot down before the morning attack. Around this time destroyers were also busy with numerous submarine contact which were attacked by depth charges.

Around noon the enemy launched heavy air attacks from the Sardinian airfields. Seventy aircraft approached which were heavily escorted by fighters. They attacked in stages and employed new methods.

First ten Italian torpedo-bombers were each to drop some sort of circling torpedo or mine a few hundred yards ahead of the British force, while eight fighter bombers made dive-bombing and machine-gun attacks. The object at this stage was clearly to dislocate the formation of the force and to draw anti-aircraft fire, making the ships more vulnerable to a torpedo attack which soon followed with over forty aircraft. They attacked in two groups, one on either bow of the convoy. The next stage was a shallow dive-bombing attack by German aircraft, after which two Italian Reggiane 2001 fighters, each with a single heavy armour-piercing bomb were to dive bomb on one of the aircraft carriers, whilst yet another new form of attack was to be employed against the other carrier, but defects in the weapon prevented this attack from taking place.

The enemy attack went according to plan besides that the torpedo attack was only made half an our after the ‘mines’ were dropped instead of five minutes. British fighters met the minelaying aircraft, they shot down one of them as they approached. The remaining nine aircraft dropped their ‘mines’ at 1215 hours in the path of the force, which turned to avoid the danger. The mines were heard to explode several minutes later. Only three of the fighter-bombers of this stage of the attack appear to have reached as far the screen, but HMS Lightning had a narrow escape from their bombs.

The torpedo-aircraft appeared at 1245 hours. Their number were brought down a bit due to British fighters. The remaining aircraft, estimated at 25 to 30 machines, attacked from the port bow, port beam and starboard quarter. They dropped their torpedoes well outside the screen some 8000 yards from the merchant ships which they had been ordered to attack. The force turned 45° to port and then back to starboard to avoid the attack.

In the next stage, around 1318 hours, the German bombing attack, the enemy scored their one success. These aircraft were also intercepted on their way in but about a dozen of about twenty aircraft came through. They crossed the convoy from starboard to port and then dived to 3000 feet. They managed to damage the transport Deucalion which was leading the port wing column. More bombs fell close to several other ships.

Finally, at 1345 hours, the two Reggiane fighters approached HMS Victorious as if to land on. They looked like Hurricanes and HMS Victorious was at that time engaged in landing her own fighters. They managed to drop their bombs and one hit the flight deck amidships. Fortunately the bomb broke up without exploding. By the time HMS Victorious could open fire both fighters were out of range.

The Deucalion could no longer keep up with the convoy and was ordered to follow the inshore route along the Tunisian coast escorted by HMS Bramham. Two bombers found these ships late in the afternoon, but their bombs missed. At 1940 hours, however, near the Cani Rocks, two torpedo aircraft attacked and a torpedo hit the Deucalion. She caught fire and eventually blew up.

The convoy passed some 20 miles north of Galita Island and spent the afternoon avoiding enemy submarines which were known to be concentrated in these waters. There were innumerable reports of sightings and Asdic contacts and at least two submarines proved dangerous. At 1616 hours, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Zetland attacked one on the port bow of the convoy and hunted her until the convoy was out of reach. HMS Ithuriel, stationed on the quarter, then attacked, forced the enemy to surface and finally rammed her. She proved to be the Italian submarine Cobalto. Meanwhile HMS Tartar, on the starboard quarter, saw six torpedoes fired at close range at 1640 hours, and the next destroyer in the screen, HMS Lookout sighted a periscope. Together they attacked the submarine, continuing until it was no longer dangerous. There was no evidence this submarine was sunk.

At 1750 hours, HMS Ithuriel, which was on her way back to the convoy after sinking the Italian submarine Cobalto was attacked by a few dive-bombers, when still a dozen miles astern of the convoy. At this time the convoy came under attack by aircraft stationed on Sicily. This force numbered nearly 100 aircraft. Ju.87 dive-bombers as well as Ju.88’s and SM-79’s all with a strong escort of fighters. The enemy started attacking at 1835 hours, the bombers attacking from both ahead and astern which last was the direction of the sun. The torpedo aircraft came from ahead to attack on the starboard bow and beam of the convoy.

The Italian SM-79’s torpedo bombers dropped their torpedoes from ranges of about 3000 yards outside the destroyer screen, and once again the convoy turned away to avoid them. However the destroyer HMS Foresight was hit by a torpedo and disabled. The bombers chose HMS Indomitable as their main target. She was astern of HMS Rodney at the time on the port quarter of the convoy. Four Ju.88’s and eight Ju.87’s came suddenly out of the sun and dived steeply towards HMS Indomitable from astern. Some of the Ju.87 came down to 1000 feet and the carrier received three hits and her flight deck was put out of action. Her airborne fighters eventually had to land on HMS Victorious. HMS Rodney meanwhile had a narrow escape when a bomber attacked from ahead. One enemy aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by AA fire from the ships while the fighters claimed nine more although there were about twice as much enemy fighters in the air then British.

HMS Tartar took the damaged HMS Foresight in tow and proceeded westward for Gibraltar. Next day, as they were shadowed by enemy aircraft, and enemy submarines were known to be in the area, it was decided to scuttle the cripple before both ships might be lost. HMS Tartar then torpedoed HMS Foresight a few miles from Galita Island.

Passage through the narrows, 12-13 August 1942, and the loss off HMS Manchester.

These last air attacks took place about 20 nautical miles west of the Skerki Channel and at 1900 hours, when the attacks were clearly over, Vice-Admiral Syfret turned away with ‘Force Z’. It was now up to Rear-Admiral Burrough with ‘Force X’ to take the convoy to Malta.

At 2000 hours, when the convoy was changing it’s formation from four to two columns, the convoy was attacked by Italian submarines. The submarine Dessiè attacked a freighter with four torpedoes and claimed three hits. The sound of the torpedo hits was however not caused by her attack but by an attack by the Axum which hit three ships, HMS Nigeria, HMS Cairo and the tanker Ohio.

HMS Nigeria had to turn back to make for Gibraltar escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Derwent, HMS Wilton and HMS Bicester. Rear-Admiral Burrough transferred his flag to the destroyer HMS Ashanti. The stern of HMS Cairo had been blown off and she had to be sunk as she was beyond salvage with both engines also out of action. She was scuttled by HMS Pathfinder. The Ohio meanwhile managed to struggle on.

At this time the convoy was still trying to form up the the submarine attacks messed things up and right at thus time the convoy was once more attacked from the air in the growing dusk at 2030 hours. About 20 German aircraft, Ju-88’s made dive bombing and torpedo attacks, hitting the Empire Hope with a bomb and the Clan Ferguson and Brisbane Star with torpedoes. The first of these ships had to be sunk (by HMS Bramham, the second blew up but the last eventually reached Malta. Soon after this attack, at 2111 hours, HMS Kenya was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Alagi. She was able to evade three of the four torpedoes but was hit in the bow by the fouth. She was however able to remain with the convoy.

The situation was then as follows. HMS Kenya and HMS Manchester with two merchant ships, and with the minesweeping destroyers HMS Intrepid, HMS Icarus and HMS Fury sweeping ahead, had passed the Skerki Channel and were steering to pass Zembra Island on the way to Cape Bon. HMS Ashanti, with Rear-Admiral Burrough on board was fast overhauling these ships. The other two destroyers HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury, were rounding up the remaining nine merchant ships. The escort destroyer HMS Bramham was also catching up after having escorted the single Deucalion until she sank.

On learing about the fate of HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo, Vice-Admiral Syfret detached HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali to reinforce Rear-Admiral Burrough. It would take these ships several hourse to catch up with the convoy.

The main body of the convoy passed Cape Bon around midnight. Fourty minutes later enemy Motor Torpedo Boats appeared and started to attack. Their first victim was HMS Manchester which was torpedoed at 0120/13 by the Italian MS 16 or MS 22. She had to be scuttled by her own crew. Many of her ships company landed in Tunisia and were interned by the Vichy-French but about 300 were picked up by destroyers (first by HMS Pathfinder, and later by HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. These last two destoyers then set off towards Gibraltar.)

Four and possibly five of the merchant ships were also hit by the Motor Torpedo Boats. These were the Wairangi, Rochester Castle, Almeria Lykes, Santa Elisa and probably the Glenorchy. They were attacked between 0315 and 0430 hours about 15 nautical miles south-east of Kelibia whilst taking a short cut to overhaul the main body of the convoy. Four were lost, only the Rochester Castle survived and she managed to catch up with the main body of the convoy at 0530 hours. The Glenorchy was sunk by the Italian MS 31, the other four, of which the Rochester Castle survived as mentioned earlier, were hit by the German S 30 and S 36 as well as the Italian MAS 554 and MAS 557.

Shortly before 0530 hours HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali had joined the main body of the convoy making the force now two cruisers and seven destroyers with the transports Rochester Castle, Waimarama and Melbourne Star. The damaged tanker Ohio was slowly catching up. With her was the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury. Astern of the main body was the Port Chalmers escorted by the destroyer HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Bramham. The destroyers recued the crew of the Santa Elisa when the passed by the abandoned ship which was afterwards finished off by a German bomber. The Dorset was proceeding without escort and lastly the damaged Brisbane Star was still keeping close to the Tunisian coast independently, intending to steer towards Malta after nightfall.

At 0730 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, sent back HMS Tartar and HMS Somali to Kelibia to assist HMS Manchester and then go to Gibraltar. When they arrived they found out that the Manchester had been scuttled several hours earlier so they rescued those of her crew that had not reached the shore yet and then made off to Gibraltar as ordered. Besides crew of the Manchester they also picked up survivors from the Almeria Lykes and Wairangi.

The next encounter with the enemy was an air attack on the main body of the convoy at 0800 hours by German bombers. About 12 Ju.88’s made a shallow diving attack coming down from 6000 feet to 2000 feet to drop their bombs. Two dived on the Waimarama hitting her several times and she blew up immediately, one of the bombers was even destroyed in the explosion. HMS Ledbury saved some of her crew out of the blazing sea. At 0925 hours, when the Ohio, Port Chalmers and Dorset where with the main body again, a few Ju.87’s escorted by Italian fighters attacked. They dived down to 1500 to 1000 feet. HMS Kenya leading the port column, and the Ohio last ship but one in the starboard column, had narrow escapes. One of the enemy aircraft crashed on board the Ohio just after having released it’s bomb after being damaged by gunfire from the Ohio and HMS Ashanti. Another aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by fighters from Malta that had been patrolling overhead since daybreak.

Arrivals at Malta 13-15 August 1942.

At 1050 hours, about 20 bombers, mostly Ju.88’s with a few Ju.87’s, came in to attack. Target was the Ohio and she received four or five near misses and her engines were disabled. At the same time the Rochester Castle in the port column was near-missed and set on fire but she continued with the convoy. The Dorset which was astern of her was hit and stopped. The convoy went on leaving the Dorset behind with the Ohio and two destroyers.

At 1125 hours the last air attack on the main body took place. Five Italian SM.79’s attacked with torpedoes and almost hit the Port Chalmers as the torpedo got stuck in the paravane. Further attacks on the main body were held of by fighters from Malta. At 1430 hours, four minesweepers from Malta joined the main body of the convoy, these were HMS Speedy (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Doran, RN, with the group’s commander A/Cdr. H.J.A.S. Jerome, RN on board), HMS Hebe, HMS Rye and HMS Heyte. Also with them were seven Motor Launches; ML 121, ML 126, ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462. HMS Rye and two of the ML’s were sent towards the damaged Ohio which was ‘vital for Malta’, according to A/Cdr. Jerome.

At 1600 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, set course to the west with his two cruisers and with five destroyers. The Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star and Rochester Castle arrived in Grand Harbour around 1800 hours with the force of A/Cdr. Jerome. The Rochester Castle was by that time very low in the water, she had just made it into port on time.

Out were still the Ohio, Dorset and the Brisbane Star. The valuable Ohio had been helpless with HMS Penn and HMS Bramham. When HMS Rye arrived at 1730 hours, HMS Penn took the Ohio in tow. Meanwhile HMS Bramham was sent to the Dorset but soon afterwards German bombers came again and the ships were attacked repeatedly until dark. Both merchantman were hit around 1900 hours and the Dorset sank.

At daylight on the 14th HMS Ledbury arrived to help bringing the Ohio to Malta. HMS Speedy also soon arrived on the scene with two ML’s. The rest of his force he had sent to search for the Brisbane Star. At 1045 hours, enemy aircraft made their last attempt, causing the parting of the tow. Fighter from Malta shot down two of the attackers. The tow was passed again and the slow procession went on and in the morning of the 15th the vital tanker finally reached Malta.

The Brisbane Star had by then also arrived. She left the Tunisian coast at dusk on the 13th. Aircraft had attacked her unsuccessfully and one of the attackers was shot down by a Beaufighter escort that had been sent from Malta. She arrived at Malta in the afternoon of the 14th.

Italian surface ships to operate against the convoy ?

The convoy had experienced the violence of the enemy in every shape except that of an attack by large surface ships. Yet Italian cruisers and destroyers had been at sea to intercept and attack it. Two light cruiser had left Cagliari in the evening of 11 August 1942 and the heavy cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano from Messina, and a light cruiser from Naples had sailed on the morning of the 12th. That evening reconnaissance aircraft reported one heavy and two light cruisers with eight destroyers about 80 nautical miles to the north of the western tip of Sicily and steering south. It would have been possible for this force to meet the convoy at dawn on the 13th so the shadowing aircraft was therefore ordered in plain language to illuminate and attack. This apparently influenced the Italians as they had limited air cover and they turned back at 0130/13 when near Cape San Vito. At 0140 hours the aircraft reported that it had dropped its bombs but no hits had been obtained. Similar orders were signalled, in plain language, to relief shadowers and to report the position of the enemy force to the benefit of imaginary Liberator bombers in case the Italians would change their minds and turn back. They however held on to the eastward.

The submarine HMS P 42 sighted them around 0800/13 off Stromboli and attacked with four torpedoes claiming two hits. She had in fact hit the heavy cruiser Bolzano which was able to proceed northwards and the light cruiser Muzio Attendolo which managed to reach Messina with her bows blown off. The other cruisers went to Naples. Following the attack P 42 was heavily depth charged by the destroyers but managed to escape.

In fact the following Italian ships had been at sea; heavy cruisers Gorizia, Trieste, Bolzano, light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia Raimondo Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo. They were escorted by eleven destroyers; Ascari, Aviere, Camicia Nera, Corsaro, Fuceliere, Geniere, Legionaro, Vincenzo Gioberti, Alfredo Oriani, Grecale and Maestrale.

The return to Gibraltar.

The British ships returning to Gibraltar had better fortune. Having left the convoy off Malta in the afternoon of the 13th, they rounded Cape Bon around 0130/14 and from that point until past Zembra Island they successful ran the gauntled of E-boats laying in wait.

at 0450/14, near the Fratelli Rocks, a submarine fired torpedoes at HMS Ashanti from the surface. She was nearly rammed by HMS Kenya, which was next astern of the ‘flagship’ (Rear-Admiral Burrough was still in HMS Ashanti). The inevitable shadowers arrived soon after daylight to herald their air attacks that began at 0730 hours. They lasted until around 1315 hours. German bombers came in first with three attemps by a few Ju.88’s. This was followed by a more severe attack with about 30 bombers, Ju-88’s and Ju-87’s between 1030 and 1050 hours. An hour later 15 Savoia high-level bombers attacked followed until 1315 hours by torpedo-carrying Savoia’s. Around 20 aircraft attacking single or in pairs. Also aircraft are though to be laying mines ahead. Several ships were near missed, but no further damage was sustained. After these attacks the British were left alone and in the evening they joined ‘Force Z’.

Vice-Admiral Syfret had gone as far west as 01’E where he ordered the damaged carrier HMS Indomitable to proceed to Malta with HMS Rodney and a destroyer screen made up of HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland. He then turned back to the east to make rendez-vous with Rear-Admiral Burrough. HMS Rodney, HMS Indomitable, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland arrived at Gibraltar in the evening of the 14th.

A few hours before they arrived the damaged HMS Nigeria and her escort had also entered port, as had HMS Tartar, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. On her way back HMS Nigeria had been attacked by torpedo-bombers and a submarine but she had not been hit.

Conclusion.

Out of the fourteen ships that had sailed only five arrived ‘safe’ at Malta. This was not a very high score also given the very heavy escort that had been provided also taken in mind that an aircraft carrier, a light cruiser, an AA cruiser an a destroyer had been lost and two heavy cruiser had been damaged. But the convoy had to meet very heavy air attacks by over 150 bombers and 80 torpedo aircraft, all in the space of two days. Also these aircraft were protected by fighter in much greater strength that the carriers and Malta could provide. And there were also the enemy submarines and E-boats.

The spirit in which to operation was carried out appears in Vice-Admiral Syfret’s report: ‘ Tribute has been paid to the personnel of His Majesty’s Ships, both the officers and men will desire to give first place to the conduct, courage, and determination of the masters, officers, and men of the merchant ships. The steadfast manner in which these ships pressed on their way to Malta through all attacks, answering every maneuvering order like a well trained fleet unit, was a most inspiring sight. Many of these fine men and their ships were lost. But the memory of their conduct will remain an inspiration to all who were privileged to sail with them. ‘ (10)

16 Aug 1942
Around 0230B/16, the battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar for the UK. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN and the escort destroyer HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN). HMS Rodney was again suffering from problems with her steering mechanism and now also had problems with her boilers.

Early in the afternoon of the 16th, HMS Rodney topped off HMS Zetland with fuel.

In the evening of the 17th, HMS Rodney topped off HMS Zetland and HMS Amazon with fuel.

At 2315A/19 [as per log of HMS Rodney, the log of HMS Victorious gives 0100A/20], HMS Zetland was detached to go to the aid of the damaged armed merchant cruiser HMS Cheshire (A/Capt. H.G. Hopper, RN).

At 2000A/20, HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Windsor (Lt.Cdr. D.H.F. Hetherington, DSC, RN) and HMS Worcester (Lt.Cdr. W.A. Juniper, RN) joined coming from Scapa Flow.

At 0200A/21, HMS Matchless, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid and HMS Amazon were detached to Londonderry.

At 0915A/21, HMS Victorious, HMS Inglefield and HMS Windsor parted company so that HMS Victorious could fly off her aircraft before proceeding to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 1800A/21.

HMS Rodney made a short stop at Scapa Flow to land passengers before continuing on to Rosyth escorted by HMS Inglefield, HMS Eclipse and HMS Worcester. They arrived at Rosyth around 1130A/22. (11)

14 Dec 1942
HrMs O 15 (Lt. A.J. Schouwenaar, RNN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN). (12)

15 Dec 1942

Convoy JW 51A.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 15 December 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Beauregard (American, 5976 GRT, built 1920), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Dynastic (American, 5773 GRT, built 1919), El Almirante (Panamanian, 5248 GRT, built 1917), El Oceano (Panamanian, 6767 GRT, built 1925), Empire Meteor (British, 7457 GRT, built 1940), Gateway City (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920), Greylock (American, 7460 GRT, built 1921), J.L.M Curry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Oremar (American, 6854 GRT, built 1919), Richard Bassett (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Richard Bland (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), San Cipriano (British (tanker), 7966 GRT, built 1937), West Gotomska (American, 5728 GRT, built 1918) and Wind Rush (American, 5586 GRT, built 1918).

The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Oligarch (6894, built 1918) was also part of the convoy.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), minesweeper HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC and Bar, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR) and the A/S trawlers Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, DSC, RNVR) and HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR).

On the 17th the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN) and HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did on the 18th. After the destroyers had joined the convoy the three escort destroyer parted company with the convoy.

On the 24th five of the merchant ships were detached to proceed to Molotovsk. They were escorted by the Russian destroyers Razyarenniy and Valerian Kyubishev.

The Murmansk section of the convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on the 25th.

The Molotovsk section of the convoy arrived there on the 27th.

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To provide distant cover for the convoy a ' battlefleet ' was deployed which was made up of the battleship HMS King George V (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) and HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN). They departed Scapa Flow on 19 December 1942.

On 21 December they reached their covering position and cruiser to the southward of the convoy's route.

They arrived back at Scapa Flow on 25 December 1942.

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To provide close cover for the convoy ' Force R ' a cruiser cover force was deployed. It was made up of the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) and the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN). They had departed Scapa Flow on the 16th except for HMS Sheffield which joined them at sea later on the 16th coming from Loch Ewe.

On the 18th, both destroyers entered Seidisfjord to fuel. The cruisers did not do so due to thick fog and proceeded to cover the convoy without the destroyers.

On the 20th, the destroyers finally departed Seidisfjord to join the cruisers. They had been delayed due to defects in HMS Matchless.

On 23 December 1942 the destroyers joined the cruisers.

' Force R ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 24 December 1942. (13)

22 Dec 1942

Convoy JW 51B and the Battle of the Barents Sea.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 22 December 1942 and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 3 January 1943.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Ballot (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Calobre (Panamanian, 6891 GRT, built 1919), Chester Valley (American, 5078 GRT, built 1919), Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Dover Hill (British, 5815 GRT, built 1918), Empire Archer (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Emerald (British (tanker), 8032 GRT, built 1941), Executive (American, 4978 GRT, built 1920), Jefferson Meyers (American, 7582 GRT, built 1920), John H.B. Latrobe (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Pontfield (British (tanker), 8319 GRT, built 1940), Puerto Rican (American, 6076 GRT, built 1919), Ralph Waldo Emerson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Vermont (American, 5670 GRT, built 1919) and Yorkmar (American, 5612 GRT, built 1919).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Chiddingfold (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), corvettes HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, DSC, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (Lt. L.A. Sayers, RNR), minesweeper HMS Bramble (Cdr. H.T. Rust, DSO, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Northern Gem (Skr. H.C. Aisthorpe, RNR) and HMS Vizalma ( T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR).

On 21 December the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN) and HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, RN) departed the Clyde to fuel at Seidisfjord and then join the close convoy escort. However on 22 December they ran into a Force 12 gale near Stokksnes Light, Iceland and both sustained weather damage. Damage to HMS Bulldog, whose Commanding Officer was to become the Senior Officer of the close escort, was of such nature that she was unable to join the convoy and she returned to the Clyde for repairs. HMS Achates was able to continue to Seidisfjord.

The convoy was most likely detected by a German Focke Wolf reconnaissance aircraft on the 24th.

Late on the 24th the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Orwell ( Lt.Cdr. N.H.G. Austen, DSO, RN) and HMS Achates departed Seidisfjord and joined the convoy the following day.

During the night of 28/29 December 1942, five merchant vessels, HMS Oribi and HMS Vizalma separated from the convoy during a gale about half way between Jan Mayen and Bear Islands.

In the afternoon of the 29th, HMS Bramble was detached to search for the missing merchantmen.

On 30 December 1942, three of the merchantmen managed to find and rejoin the convoy.

HMS Oribi reached the Kola Inlet alone on 31 December 1942 having searched for the convoy but having failed to do so.

HMS Bramble was sunk on 31 December 1942 before she was able to rejoin the convoy.

HMS Vizalma and one of the merchantmen rejoined the convoy on 1 January 1943.

The last merchantmen that had separated from the convoy was unable to find it and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 5 January 1943, two days after the main body of the convoy had arrived.

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Meanwhile in the afternoon of 27 December 1941, ' Force R ' had departed the Kola Inlet to support the convoy. ' Force R ' was made up of the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) and the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). They were to provide cover of the convoy going as far west as 11°00'E.

On the 29th he turned back and the destroyers were then detached to proceed to Scapa Flow where they arrived early in the afternoon of 1 January 1943.

As the cruisers went east again they kept well south of the expected convoy route and on reaching the meridian of the Kola Inlet on the 30th, they turned north-west to cross the expected convoy route early the next day with the intention to then steer a parallel course a few miles north of the route and to cover the convoy from 40 to 50 miles astern. This was the direction from which an attack was most likely to develop. The intention by Rear-Admiral Burnett to keep to the North of the convoy route was to gain the advantage of the light over any enemy that might appear and also to avoid detection by enemy air reconnaissance and leading enemy aircraft to the convoy.

Nothing however came of this plan as the convoy was further to the south and much further to the west than had been anticipated. The result was that Rear-Admiral Burnett did not cross the route behind the convoy but well ahead of it and by 0830 hours on 31 December 1942 was nearly 30 miles due north of it. This ignorance of the relative position of the convoy exercised great influence on the Rear-Admiral's decisions throughout the action that ensued.

Up to that morning, the 31st, there had been little sign that the Germans knew of the convoy's progress since the 24th.

Actually the convoy had been sighted by a German submarine (this was U-354) around noon on the 30th. The U-boat reported it was 'weakly protected'. A German squadron, made up of the heavy cruisers Admiral Hipper (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) H. Hartmann, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral O. Kummetz), Lützow (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) R. Stange) and the destroyers of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla (Kpt.z.S.(Capt.) A. Schemmel), Z 16 / Friedrich Eckhold (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. Bachmann, with Capt. Schemmel on board), Z 4 / Richard Beitzen (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. von Davidson), Z 6 / Theodor Riedel (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) W. Riede), Z 29 (F.Kpt.(Cdr.) K. Rechel), Z 30 (F.Kpt.(Cdr.) H. Kaiser) and Z 31 (K.Kpt.(Lt.Cdr.) H. Alberts) then wasted no time in putting to sea. Vice Admiral Kummetz was not aware of the cruisers of Rear Admiral Burnett. He was also hampered by the orders not to risk an action with equal or superior enemy forces. Also night attack was ruled out. Also the Lützow showed a bit timid action in the engagement that was to follow, this was she was to avoid damage as she was to break out into the Atlantic immediately following the attack on the convoy.

Vice-Admiral Kummetz decided to approach from astern of the convoy thereby obtaining advantage of light, and to attack it from both sides, anticipating that the escort would be drawn off towards the first contact and that the convoy would turn away from it, thereby falling an easy prey to the other force. To give effect to this plan he devided his squadron into two forces. The Admiral Hipper, Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 4 / Richard Beitzen and Z 29 were to attack from the north-west and the Lützow, Z 6 / Theodor Riedel, Z 30 and Z 31 were to operate from the southward. During the night the Lützow-group was detached with orders to be 75 miles 180° from the Admiral Hipper-group at 0800/31. The Hipper-group would be in position 73°40'N, 28°00'E. On arriving in their positions a sweep to the eastward was to commence with the destroyers spread 15 miles apart on a line 15 miles ahead of the heavy ships.

Admiral Kummentz was later criticised for adopting a plan which split his force and introduced complications such timing difficulties, identification of own forces in the Arctic dusk and qualls, etc., but it is worth noting that his tactical dispositions did in fact work out exactly as he intended. The Lützow and her destroyers passed two or three miles south of the convoy while practically all its escorts were attending to the Hipper-group in the north, and but for the extreme caution of Capt. Strange of the Lützow there seems no reason why he should not have virtually annihilated the convoy.

To return to convoy JW 51B, the situation at 0830/31 was thus approximately as follows. The convoy, temporarily reduced to 12 ships, with five destroyers, two corvettes and a trawler still in company, was on an easterly course in position 73°15'N, 29°00'E. This was about 220 miles north-west of the Kola Inlet. Some 45 miles to the northward was the trawler HMS Vizalma with one merchant vessel in company. About 15 miles to the north-eastward was HMS Bramble. Rear-Admiral Burnett in HMS Sheffield and with HMS Jamaica was about 30 miles north of the convoy and 15 miles south of the Vizalma. None of these four groups knew each other's relative positions and there was also another straggler somewhere in the neighbourhood. Quite unknown to the British, for there had been no sign of the enemy being aware of their progress, still less that he was at sea in force, the Admiral Hipper had just crossed the wake of the convoy and was then within 20 miles to the north-westward, while the Lützow, still some 50 miles off, was closing in from the southward.

The weather was generally clear, the twilight visibility being about seven miles to the northward and ten miles to the southward, but at intervals much reduced by snow squalls. The sky was mostly covered with low cloud. The wind came from the west-north-west, force 3, the sea slight with no swell. There were 16 degrees of frost and there was ice on all ships.

At 0830/31, HMS Obdurate, on the starboard beam of the convoy, reported two destroyers to the south-west. Actually, they had been sighted ten minutes previously by HMS Hyderabad (on the starboard quarter of the convoy) but she had taken them for Russians coming to reinforece the escort and made no report. Captain Sherbrooke sent HMS Obdurate to investigate. A third destroyer soon came into sight. These were the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 4 / Richard Beitzen and Z 29 gradually opening from the Admiral Hipper in anticipation of the order to turn and sweep to the eastward. They altered course away from the Obdurate to the north-west. At 0930 hours - an hour after she had first sighted them - the Obdurate had closed them to 8000 yards, and they opened fire on her, so she turned away and steered to rejoin the convoy. The enemy made no attempt to follow and disappeared to the north-westward. This was the beginning of a series of disconnected skirmishes fought in the gloom of the Arctic twilight, in which smoke screens and snowstorms made it often impossible for ships of either side to identify their opponents with certainty, or indeed even to be sure of their numbers.

Captain Sherbrooke had already turned HMS Onslow towards the gun flashes and he signalled HMS Orwell, HMS Obedient and HMS Obdurate to join him, leaving HMS Achates and the three smaller warships with the convoy to cover it with smoke.

A more formidable opponent, however, diverted Captain Sherbooke's attention from the three destroyers. At 0939 hours, he sighted a large ship eight miles to the north-westward, a little on his starboard bow standing towards him. With HMS Onslow at this moment was only HMS Orwell as HMS Obedient had to come from the far side of the convoy. At 0941 hours, the big German turned away to port to open fire on HMS Achates, then showing clearly to windward of her smoke, and thus disclosing herself to be the Admiral Hipper, as her four gun turrets proved. HMS Onslow and HMS Orwell returned the fire, at a range of about 11000 yards, and followed round to a similar course. Captain Sherbrooke soon formed the opinion that the enemy was unwilling to face the risk of torpedo attack by the destroyers and made good use of the fact. For half an hour they skirmished fitfully, the British ships firing by radar, the Admiral Hipper sometimes hiding in the smoke and sometimes firing towards the convoy and all the time edging towards the north-east.

Meanwhile, the convoy had turned from east to south-east at 0945/31ç and was going off at nearly 9 knots, screened by smoke from HMS Achates, HMS Rhododendron and HMS Northern Gem. By 0955 hours, HMS Obedient had joined Captain Sherbrooke, and HMS Obdurate was in sight returning from the south-west He ordered these two ships to join the convoy, anxious lest it should be attacked by the three German destroyers, which he had never seen himself and whose movements he could not trace. Actually they had been ordered to join the Hipper at 0933 hours (just after opening fire on HMS Obdurate). HMS Obedient steered away to the southward at 1008 hours, and signalled to HMS Obdurate to join her, turning eastward later to lay a smokescreen across the wake of the convoy before joining it. A signal from HMS Sheffield that she was approaching on course 170° had been received ' with acclamation ' a few minutes previously.

At the same time HMS Obedient turned south the Admiral Hipper hauled right up to the northward out of action and it was thought that she had received three hits [this was not the case though]. Her firing had been ' aimless and erratic ' and whenever the range came within 11000 yards she had turned away. This was partly in pursuance of the plan to lure the escort away to the northward and so leave the field clear for the Lützow, and partly because Admiral Kummetz could form no clear picture of the situation owing to the smoke and poor visibility.

However, a few minutes later she ' suddenly pulled herself together ' and turned back to fight to two remaining destroyers. After a few inaccurate salvos she found the Onslow's range and at 1020 hours scored four hits in rapid succession inflicting considerable damage. 'A' and 'B' guns were put out of action, the aft superstructure and mess deck were set on fire, the main aerials and both W/T sets were destroyed, the engine room holed, and Captain Sherbrooke severely wounded in the face, so that he could not see. Despite his wounds he continued to direct the flotilla and his ship till a further hit compelled him to disengange the Onslow, only then, after receiving reports as to her condition and assuring himself that the order to Lt.Cdr. Kinloch of HMS Obedient to take charge of the destroyers was being acted on, did he leave the bridge. By the time Lt.Cdr. Kinloch learnt that he was in command (1035 hours), a snowstorm had reduced the visibility to about two miles and the Admiral Hipper had disappeared. This was the end of the first action.

By this time Rear-Admiral Burnett with HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica was coming into the picture. Unfortunately he had been delayed from steering for the gunfire as early as he might have done by a radar contact picked up at 0858/31 of a ship some 15000 yards ahead while he was still steering to the north-west. As the plot developed, at 0905 hourss the stranger seemed to be doing at least 25 knots, though it subsequently appeared that her speed had been greatly over estimated. Just before this ' a ship was dimly in sight ' for a moment on the correct bearing and Rear-Admiral Burnett ' hauled away ' to the south-east and then closed at 0930 hours, in order to ' track and establish touch '. It was in fact, a merchant vessel, wihch had parted company with the convoy earlier and was now with the trawler HMS Vizalma. These were shortly yo see the two British cruisers stretching away to the southward ten miles on their starboard bow, without knowing whether they were friend or foe. Two minutes later, at 0932 hours, gun flashes were seen over the southern horizon and were taken for anti-aircraft fire. It must have been the skirmish between HMS Obdurate and the German destroyers that opened the day's fighting.

Rear-Admiral Burnett was in a perplexing position. He had no idea of the actual position of the convoy, whose safety was his prime objective, and which he supposed to be well to the eastward of him. Past experience had taught him that stragglers were to be expected after the heavy gales. The brief exchange of gunfire seen at 0932 hours had soon died down and might well have come from one or a detached escort vessel. On the whole it seemed likely hat the convoy was somewhere ahead of the Vizalma and her straggler and with this in mind he continued to track them by radar steering to the east and north-east.

Then, at 0946/31, heavy gunfire was observed to the southward and very shortly afterwards an enemy report of three destroyers was received from Capt. Sherbrooke. Though by then suspecting that the convoy was considerably further south than anticipated, the Rear-Admiral held on for some minutes and it was not until 0955 hours that he altered course and increasing to 25 knots and ' steamed towards the sight of the guns '.

In hindsight, it is clear that the cruisers could have intervened in the action earlier, had Rear-Admiral Burnett at once applied the two fundamental principles of British fighting policy, viz ' when in doubt, steer for the sound of the guns ' and ' the unfailing support given in battle by one British unit to another '. On the other hand the ' safe and timely arrival ' of the still unlocated convoy was his object, and human reactions are known to be slow when subjected to the rigours of the bitter Arctic climate.

As the cruisers ran south they worked up to 31 knots, and the could see through the smoke the later stages of the destroyers first fight with the Admiral Hipper, though the could not distinguish the ships engaged. At about 1030 hours, they had radar contacts of ships bearing 180° and 140°, at ranges of about 24000 and 30000 yards respectively, both ships apparently standing to the eastward at high speed. As the situation was not yet clear Rear-Admiral Burnett turned eastward himself at 1035 hours. A minute later there was a burst of firing on his starboard bow. He continued to the eastward to close this while taking care to preserve the light in his favour. At 1045/31 the nearer and western ship of the two radar contacts came in sight for a moment, she was ' larger then a destroyer, therefore necessarily an enemy' but that was all that could be said of her. The ships of the other contact, further east, altered course to the southward at 1054 hours and at 1055 hours the British cruisers turned to the southward in chase.

Ten minutes later they had a contact a little on the starboard bow at 19000 yards, and this was the ship they subsequently engaged. At 1112 hours she was seen to be firing to the eastward. Rear-Admiral Burnett then altered course towards her.

Now lets return to the convoy. The situation that Lt.Cdr. Kinloch had to cope with on taking over command of the escort at 1035 hours was by no means clear. The convoy, by this time steering 180°, was some three miles to the southward of HMS Obedient and HMS Obdurate, which were closing it. HMS Orwell, somewhat to the north-east, was steering to join them. HMS Achates a little to the westward was continuing to lay smoke, and the damaged HMS Onslow was taking station ahead of the convoy from whence she could home ' Force R '. Just about this time, HMS Rhododendron from the port quarter of the convoy reported smoke to the south-west, followed ten minutes later by a report of a large vessel bearing 160° only two miles off, steering to the north-east. These reports necessarily engaged the attention of Lt.Cdr. Kinloch, but he did not accept them for want of corroboration by ships nearer to the strangers, and continued to follow the convoy to the southward, keeping between it and the direction in which the Admiral Hipper had disappeared. For some reason HMS Hyderabad, stationed on the starboard side of the convoy, which just previously had seen two destroyers and a large ship cross ahead from west to east, made no report. This was the Lützow's force, but provindentially a heavy snow-squall just then partially blotted out the convoy, and her Captain, though aware of its presence, considered it too risky to attack and decided to stand off to the eastward till the weather should be clear.

Meanwhile the Admiral Hipper, after disabling HMS Onslow had stood on the east-north-east at 31 knots. At 1036 hours, she fell in with HMS Bramble, which no doubt had altered course towards the gunfire of the previous engagements, and damaged her with a few salvoes at short range. At 1047 hours, she altered course to the southward, detaching Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt a few minutes later to finish off HMS Bramble.

Lt.Cdr. Kinloch with his three destroyers continued to the southward, gradually overhauling the convoy and passing down its port side. His last news of the Hipper had been a report from the Orwell placing her 038° eight miles from her at 1040 hours. The weather cleared somewhat at about 1100 hours and HMS Obedient then sighted a cruiser and two destroyers bearing 060°. This was the Lützow waiting for the weather to clear. Lt.Cdr. Kinloch led round towards her mad made smoke. She seemed to be steering about 150°, and the British destroyers soon conformed, keeping between her and the convoy. At 1106 hours the enemy opened fire, but no fall of shot could be seen from HMS Obedient. Actually, the ship firing was the Admiral Hipper, which was approaching at 31 knots on course 190° on a bearing nearly the same as the Lützow's. The Admiral Hipper at that time was firing on destroyers to the eastward, which she claimed to have set on fire. No British destroyers were in this position at the time. A possible explanation is that this was the unfortunate Bramble again, which in the murk and gloom had limped off to the southward. Be that as it may, the Admiral Hipper continued at high speed on course 220°, and at 1115 hours engaged HMS Achates, then just clearing her smoke screen in response to orders from Lt.Cdr. Kinloch to join HMS Onslow ahead of the convoy. After three minutes, HMS Achates received a hit which crippled her, killing her Commanding Officer, Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, and some 40 others. Lt. Peyton-Jones, who then took command, found he could only overtake the convoy very slowly, so he disregarded orders and continued to lay smoke as before.

The Admiral Hipper then shifted her fire to HMS Obedient, which had led her destroyers to the northward again to keep between her and the convoy, and had opened fire on her at a range of 8500 yards at 1120/31. At 1125 hours the Admiral Hipper hauled up o the north-westward (310°), and having straddled HMS Obedient and put her wireless out of action at 1128 hours, altered course to 360° at 1130 hours in order to clear the torpedo menace. At the same time Lt.Cdr. Kinloch, as the range was rapidly opening, altered course to port again to close the convoy.

At this moment the Admiral Hipper received an unpleasant shock. Firing broke out from the northward, and before it was realised what was happening she received a hit which reduced her speed to 28 knots. ' Force R ' had arrived. Her turn to the north-westward at 1125 houres had revealed her broadside to the approaching cruisers, then some sever or eight miles off. Rear-Admiral Burnett led round a roughly parallel course and at 1130 hours, HMS Sheffield opened fire under helm at about 13000 yards, HMS Jamaica firing directly afterwards from her forward turrects. Taken completely by surprise, the Admiral Hipper failed to reply till after the fourth salvo had arrived. She made smoke and altered course towards them, swinging through east to 240°, and receiving two more hits before she was round. This was too much for Vice-Admiral Kimmetz, who thus found himself between Lt.Cdr. Kinloch's destroyers to the southward and an unknown force engaging him from the northward, and at 1137 hours he made a general signal ordering all ships to break off action and retire to the west.

The British ships conformed with her turn and the range at one stage fell as low as 8000 yards, unluckily the Admiral Hipper then became obscured, and HMS Sheffield had to cease fire from 1136 to 1139 hours, losing three precious minutes at short range. At 1143, when both sides were pointing southward again, two German destroyers appeared in an ideal position to attack with torpedoes at 4000 yards range. HMS Sheffield reversed her helm and headed for one destroyer. This was the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, which had mistaken the British cruisers for the Admiral Hipper and Lützow, which she was trying to rejoin. HMS Sheffield engaged her with all guns down to pompoms, passing within half a mile of her and reducing her to a shambles in ten minutes. HMS Jamaica astern fired first at the other destroyer, which was further off and which turned away seemingly unharmed [This was the Z 4 / Richard Beitzen]. Then she shifted her aim to the Sheffield's target, but refrained from firing on the blazing wreck, which the enemy subsequently admitted had been sunk. Meanwhile the Admiral Hipper having completed the full circle of her turn passed out of sight to the westward. She had suffered three hits in the brief action. Her no.3 boiler room was flooded and her hangar on fire. They only salvo she got off at her opponents had fallen harmlessly in the sea.

Before the British cruiser found the enemy again, HMS Obedient and her consorts had one more fight. After disengaging from the Admiral Hipper at 1130 hours, they stood to the southward to close the convoy. The flashes of Rear-Admiral Burnett's guns to the north-eastward had been a welcome sight. Though they had known he was on his way, they could not know when he would arrive. They also saw another engagement further east at 1138 hours, apparently between a large ship and a much smaller one, the latter firing a single gun. This may have been the Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt sinking HMS Bramble. Then, some three minutes later, a large ship began shelling the convoy from the north-east at a distance of about nine miles. Some of the merchant ships were not yet screened by the smoke the destroyers had been laying, and one of them, the Calobre, was damaged. This was the Lützow, which seeing no possibility of attacking the convoy from the east, had altered course at 1126 to the north-westward, in order to maintain contact with the Admiral Hipper, which she had seen firing and identified by exchange of recognition signals ten minutes previously.

The convoy made an emergency turn to 225°, while Lt.Cdr. Kinloch hauled round to the eastward to cover it with smoke, and opened fire. According to the Lützow all shots fell short. One of the German destroyers following the Lützow fired a few ineffective rounds. After about five minutes, the smoke screen became effective and the Lützow ceased fire. Immediately afterwards Lt.Cdr. Kinloch sighted the Admiral Hipper and her two destroyers on a south-westerly course four to five miles to the northward. The three British destroyers turned together to the north-west which put HMS Obdurate, to whom Lt.Cdr. Kinloch had turned over the direction of the destroyer when his own wireless was disabled, at the head of the line and steered between the convoy and the new enemy. The Germans altered away to a similar course, but by this time the Lützow was steaming to join the Admiral Hipper at 24 knots and she opened an accurate fire on HMS Obdurate at 1155/31, to which the British destroyers replied. At 1202 hours, after the Obdurate had been damaged by a near miss, they turned away to keep between the convoy and the most likely direction of attack if the enemy should close again, while the Lützow continued to the westward. But this was the last attempt the Germans made. Vice-Admiral Kummetz had repeated his signal to withdraw at 1149 hours, and no more was seen of them by the destroyers. At 1240 hours, with no enemy in sighted and night drawing on, the steered south to overtake the convoy.

All this time the crippled HMS Achates, her bows deep in the water and listing ominously, had continued to screen the convoy with smoke. By 1300 hours the list had increased to about 60°, and a quarter of an hour later she lost steam. Lt. Peyton-Jones then signalled for assistance, and HMS Northern Gem closed her at once. She capsized suddenly and sank at 1330 hours. HMS Northern Gem picked up 81 survivors.

Meanwhile HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica had ceased fire at 1154 ad alter to the westward. At 1215 hours, they sighted the Admiral Hipper for a moment 12 miles away on the port bow going also to the westward. Then at 1223 hours two destroyers came in sight four or five miles to the southward in a good position for firing torpedoes. Rear-Admiral Burnett turned towards them to engage. As the guns were training on the target, however, HMS Sheffield sighted a larger ship, the Lützow, further away on the same bearing. At 1229 hours, the British cruisers opened fire on her from 14000 yards. She replied at once and the Admiral Hipper joined in the fight two or three minutes later from further ahead. The Lützow's shots fell consistently short, but the Hipper's fire was dangerously accurate, so Rear-Admiral Burnett hauled up to the northward to avoid being engaged ' from both sides at once ' and to lessen the risk from torpedoes fired gt the destroyers, which were not being engaged. By 1236 hours the fight was over, HMS Jamaica claiming one hit on the Lützow [this was not the case]. The Germans continued to the westward, and the British ships soon turned west also, tracking the enemy by radar till at 1400 hours they lost contact. By this time the radar operators in HMS Sheffield, who had been operating their apparatus in an exposed position in a temperature well below freezing point for hours, were completely exhausted. HMS Jamaica's radar had been out of action due to her own salvo firing. Rear-Admiral Burnett also did not want to get too far from the convoy, of whose position he was still very uncertain. The big German ships had been driven off, but it was known that the light cruiser Nürnberg had been with them at Altenfjord. It was though that she was also at sea nearby. Rear-Admiral Burnett to the southward, between the convoy and the big German ships still with the advantage of what little light remained.

So the fighting ended. The British forces had lost the Achates and Bramble but the convoy was intact and the had sunk the Friedrich Eckholdt and seriously damaged the Admiral Hipper. As a result of these actions, too, the Germans abandoned the plan for the Lützow to break out onto the Atlantic which was deemed impossible of fulfulment, and thouroughly discouraged they steered for the Altenfjord.

Convoy JW 51B had no more encounters with the enemy after the action on 31 December. In the afternoon of January 2nd, the minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN) as well as two Russian destroyers joined. The Russians taking charge of ships bound for Archangelsk, which then parted company. The main body of the convoy entered the Kola Inlet on the 3rd and the Archangelsk detachment arrived there on the 6th.

Rear-Admiral Burnett had patrolled with HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica to the westward of convoy JW 51B up to 1830/31 when he followed it to the south-east and finally turned north early on 1 January to give protection to westbound convoy RA 51. These two cruiser eventually arrived at Seidisfjord on 4 January 1943.

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A distant cover force had also been deployed. It was made up of the battleship the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral B.A. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, 2nd in Command, Home Fleet), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) and the destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and had left Akureyri, Iceland on shortly after noon on 26 December. At 0400/29 they had arrived in position 72°36'N, 13°07'E after which they turned back for Iceland.

In the early evening of 30 December HMS Cumberland was detached to Hvalfjord where she arrived very late in the evening of 31 December.

HMS Anson and the three destroyers then proceeded to Seidisfjord where they arrived early in the afternoon of 31 December but not before they had been joined by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney, HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Ledbury earlier in the day. (14)

8 Jan 1943
HrMs O 15 (Lt. A.J. Schouwenaar, RNN) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski). (12)

17 Jan 1943

Convoy JW 52.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 17 January 1943.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), Cornelius Barnett (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Dan-Y-Bryn (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Delsud (American, 4982 GRT, built 1919), El Oriente (Panamanian, 6012 GRT, built 1910), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Clarion (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Portia (British, 7058 GRT, built 1942), Empire Snow (British, 6327 GRT, built 1941), Empire Tristram (British, 7167 GRT, built 1942), Gulfwing (American (tanker), 10217 GRT, built 1928), Nicholas Gilman (British, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Faith (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942) and Temple Arch (British, 5138 GRT, built 1940).

The RFA tanker Oligarch (6894 GRT, built 1918) was also with the convoy.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN), minesweeper HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN), corvettes HMS Lotus (Lt. H.J. Hall, DSC, RNR), HMS Starwort (Lt. A.H. Kent, RNR) and the A/S trawlers HMS Northern Pride (T/Lt. A.L.F. Bell, RNR) and HMS St. Elstan (Lt. R.M. Roberts, RNR).

On 21 January the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Offa (Cdr. R.A. Ewing, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN) joined the convoy coming from Seidisfjord which the had departed the day before. HMS Blankney, HMS Ledbury and HMS Middleton were then detached to Seidisfjord where they arrived on 22 January.

Also on 21 January the Empire Baffin was detached from the convoy to proceed to Akureyri where she arrived on 23 January. She was unable to keep up with the convoy.

On 24 January 1943, the convoy was attacked by four German HE 115 torpedo bombers. No damage was sustained and two of the attackers were shot down by AA fire. U-boats were also in contact with the convoy. U-302 was driven off before she could attack around 0434B/24. At 2008B/24, U-622 fired four torpedoes at the convoy but no hits were obtained.

At 0820B/25, U-622 was driven off by air cover. Also on the 25th a shadowing aircraft dropped a bomb but no damage was inflicted.

The convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on 27 January 1943.

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To provide close cover for the convoy ' Force R ' was deployed.

' Force R ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN) and the light cruisers HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) and HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) departed Seidisfjord on 21 January.

at 0832B/24, the German submarine U-625 fired four torpedoes at HMS Kent and HMS Bermuda. No hits were obtained. HMS Glasgow appeared to be detached at the time of the attack to oil destroyers from the convoy escort. The attack appeared to be unobserved.

' Force R ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 26 January.

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To provide distant cover for the convoy a ' Battleforce ' was deployed.

The ' Battleforce ', which departed Scapa Flow on 21 January, was made up of the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Montrose (A/Cdr. W.J. Phipps, OBE, RN).

On 22 January the destroyers HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN), ORP Orkan (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) and HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) arrived at Seidisfjord to fuel. They departed later the same day to join the Battleforce which they did on 23 January in approximate position 66°12'N, 22°50'W. The original destroyer screen was then detached. HMS Inglefield and HMS Montrose to Akureyri and HMS Faulknor and HMS Eclipse were to return to Scapa Flow.

On 27 January 1943 the ' Battleforce ' arrived at Akureyri. (15)

29 Jan 1943

Convoy RA 52.

This convoy departed the Kola Inlet on 29 January 1943.

On departure it was made up of the following merchant vessels; Beauregard (American, 5976 GRT, built 1920), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Dynastic (British, 5773 GRT, built 1919), El Almirante (Panamanian, 5248 GRT, built 1917), El Oceano (Panamanian, 6767 GRT, built 1925), Empire Meteor (British, 7457 GRT, built 1940), Gateway City (American, 5432 GRT, built 1920), Greylock (American, 7460 GRT, built 1921) and Wind Rush (American, 5586 GRT, built 1918).

The damaged destroyer HMS Onslow (Lt.Cdr. T.J.G. Marchant, RN) was also part of the convoy. She was not a part of the escort.

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Offa (Cdr. R.A. Ewing, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN), minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC and Bar, RNR), HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, DSC, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (Lt. L.A. Sayers, RNR) and the A/S trawlers Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, DSC, RNVR), HMS Northern Gem (Skr. H.C. Aisthorpe, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR).

From 1 February onwards the convoy was shadowed by enemy U-boats.

On 2 February, HMS Onslow was detached to proceed independently to Scapa Flow where she arrived on 4 February.

On 3 February, the merchant vessel Greylock was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-255.

On 4 February, HMS Forester was detached to report the convoy's position and then proceed to Seidisfjord to fuel. Also on this day the destroyer HMS Vivacious (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did the following day.

After the relief escorts had joined on the 5th, HMS Onslaught, HMS Offa, HMS Matchless, HMS Musketeer, ORP Piorun, HMS Icarus, HMS Beagle and HMS Bulldog were then etached from convoy to Seidisfiord to fuel, arriving there later the same day.

HMS Seagull and HMS Honeysuckle were also detached to Seidisfjord for some repairs and fuel. They too arrived at Seidisfjord later on the 5th.

On 6 February, HMS Seagull and HMS Honeysuckle departed Seidisfjord to rejoin the convoy which they did on the 7th.

On 7 February, HMS Vivacious was detached from the convoy to join the ' Battleforce '.

On 8 February, HMS Middleton was detached from the convoy to proceed to the Clyde. HMS Blankney, HMS Harrier and HMS Seagull were detached from the convoy to proceed to Scapa Flow.

Later on 8 February, HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Hyderabad, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron were detached from the convoy to proceed to the Clyde while HMS Lady Madeleine, HMS Northern Gem, HMS Northern Wave and HMS Vizalma were detached to proceed to Belfast.

The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on the 9th as did all the escorts at their respective destinations.

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To provide close cover for the convoy ' Force R ' was deployed.

' Force R ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN) and the light cruisers HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) and HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) departed the Kola Inlet on 30 January.

' Force R ' arrived at Scapa Flow on 4 February.

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To provide distant cover for the convoy a ' Battleforce ' was deployed.

The ' Battleforce ', which departed Akureyri on 30 January, was made up of the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Obedient (Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and ORP Orkan (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki).

On 1 February, they arrived in the covering position near 73°45'N, 12°40'E. They left this position for Hvalfjord on 2 February.

On 3 February, was detached to fuel at Seidisfjord.

On 4 February, HMS Anson, HMS Sheffield, HMS Inglefield, HMS Oribi and ORP Orkan arrived at Hvalfjord.

(15)

15 Feb 1943

Convoy JW 53.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe for Northern Russia on 15 February 1943.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Artigas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), Beaconhill (American, 6941 GRT, built 1919), Bering (American, 7631 GRT, built 1920), British Governor (British (tanker), 6840 GRT, built 1926), City of Omaha (British, 6124 GRT, built 1920), Dover Hill (British, 5815 GRT, built 1918), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Fortune (British, 6140 GRT, built 1943), Empire Galliard (British, 7170 GRT, built 1942), Empire Kinsman (British, 6744 GRT, built 1942), Empire Portia (British, 7058 GRT, built 1942), Empire Scott (British, 6150 GRT, built 141), Explorer (British, 6235 GRT, built 1935), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Israel Putnam (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Bowie (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John Laurance (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Joseph E. Johnston (American, 7196 GRT, built 1942), Komiles (Russian, 3962 GRT, built 1932), Llandaff (British, 4825 GRT, built 1937), Marathon (Norwegian, 7208 GRT, built 1930), Mobile City (American, 6157 GRT, built 1920), Ocean Freedom (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Petrovski (Russian, 3771 GRT, built 1921), Pieter de Hoogh (British, 7168 GRT, built 1941), Tblisi (Russian, 7169 GRT, built 1912), Thomas Hartley (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942) and Tobruk (British, 7048 GRT, built 1942).

Three of the above listed ships sailed only on the 16th as convoy JW 53B and were to overtake and join the main convoy [see below].

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the minesweeper HMS Jason (Cdr. H.G.A. Lewis, RN), corvettes HMS Bergamot (Lt. R.T. Horan, RNR), HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.F. Tognola, RNR), HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR) and the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Austin (T/Lt. E.L. Wathen, RNR) and HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. T.D. Bennett, RNR).

The escort destroyers escort destroyers HMS Meynell (Lt. B.M.D. I'Anson, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN), HMS Pytchley (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) and minesweeper HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. L.C. Smith, RN) departed Scapa Flow on the same day and joined the convoy escort at sea. HMS Hazard however returned to Scapa Flow later the same day with weather damage and presumably never actually joined the convoy. She was replaced by HMS Halcyon (T/A/Lt.Cdr. H.L.D. Hoare, RNR) which departed Scapa Flow early on the 16th joining the convoy escort p.m. that day.

Also on the 16th convoy JW 53B, made up of three merchant ships of the above list, and escorted by the corvette HMS Bryony (T/Lt. T. Hand, RNR) departed Loch Ewe to overtake and join the convoy. The destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join convoy JW 53B which they did the following day after which HMS Bryony was detached to Liverpool as she had sustained weather damage. She arrived at Liverpool on the 18th.

On the 17th, the A/S trawler HMS Lord Middleton was detached with weather damage to Scapa Flow escorted by the corvette HMS Dianella. They arrived at Scapa Flow on the 18th.

On the 18th, one of the ships from convoy JW 53B was detached to Scapa Flow with weather damage. She was escorted by HMS Matchless. The merchant vessel eventually went back to Loch Ewe arriving there on the 22nd. HMS Matchless then went to Scapa Flow arriving there also on the 22nd.

On the 19th, the two remaining ships of convoy JW 53B also turned back, due to the weather conditions they were unable to overtake the main convoy. Three ships from the main convoy also turned back to Loch Ewe with weather damage. These five merchant vessels arrived back at Loch Ewe on 22 February. The destroyer HMS Musketeer proceeded to Akureyri, Iceland arriving there on the 20th.

On the 20th the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN) departed Seidisfjord to join the escort of convoy JW 53 as did the corvettes HMS Bluebell (Lt. G.H. Walker, RNVR) and HMS Camellia (T/Lt. R.F.J. Maberley, RNVR). All these escorts joined the convoy p.m. 20th.

Also on the 20th the AA cruiser HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN) and ORP Orkan (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) departed Akureyri also to join the escort of convoy JW 53 which they did on 21 February.

On the 21st, HMS Middleton and HMS Pytchley were detached from the escort of convoy JW 53 to proceed to Seidisfjord where the arrived p.m. the same day. HMS Middleton was unable to anchor at Seidisfjord and the proceeded to Scapa Flow instead where she arrived on 23 February.

On the 22nd, HMS Meynell and HMS Halcyon parted company with convoy JW 53. HMS Meynell arrived at Seidisfjord p.m. on the 22nd, HMS Halcyon arrived the next day.

On 23 February the convoy was sighted and reported by German air reconnaissance and of the next day the convoy was being shadowed by aircraft and U-boats.

At 2142A/24, the German submarine U-622 attacked a destroyer with torpedoes. She missed but was later depth charged by the destroyer HMS Orwell which most likely had also been the target of her attack. The submarine escaped without damage though.

On 25 February the convoy was attacked around noon by 14 Ju.88's in position 73°41'N, 29°42'E. No damage was done to any ship in the convoy.

Around noon the 26th the convoy was attacked again from the air, in position 71°16'N, 36°54'E and again no damage was done.

Also on the 26th a Russian escort made up of the destroyers Gromkiy, Grozniy, Valerian Kyubishev and Uritsky joined as did the British minesweeper HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN).

Later on the 26th, seven of the merchant vessels were detached to Archangelsk with the Russian escorts as well as the minesweeper HMS Britomart.

The bulk of the convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on 27 February. The Archangelsk section arrived there the following day.

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A battle force (distant cover force) for this convoy was also deployed. It departed Akureyri, Iceland on 22 February 1943 and was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. T.E. Halsey, DSO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), HMS Howe (Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, CB, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.H. Faulkner, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Offa (Cdr. R.A. Ewing, DSC, RN), HMS Musketeer, HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski) and HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN).

They arrived in their covering position, 150 miles south-west of Bear Island on 24 February.

On the 26th the distant cover force returned to Akureyri except for HMS Berwick which was detached to Hvalfjord where she arrived on the 27th.

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Besides the distant cover force there was also a cruiser / close cover force ' Force R '.

It was made up of the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, OBE, RN) and the heavy cruisers HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN) departed Seidisfjord on 21 February.

' Force R ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 26 February 1943.

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A ' carrier ' force made up of the escort carrier HMS Dasher (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, DSO, RN) and the destroyer HMS Impulsive and the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN) was also to be deployed from Seidisfjord but as HMS Dasher and HMS Blankney suffered weather damage in the built up stage of the convoy operation so the deployment of the ' carrier ' force was cancelled. HMS Impulsive then went to Akureyri to join the ' battle ' force instead. (16)

5 Mar 1943
HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral B.A. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN), HMS Newfoundland (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), HMCS Athabascan (Cdr. G.R. Miles, DSO, OBE, RCN), HMS Rapid (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Charlestown (Lt. W.F.B. Webb, DSC, RN) and FFS La Combattante (Lt.Cdr. A. Patou) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow.

Upon completion of the exercises HMS Furious, HMS Matchless and HMS Raidar proceeded to the Clyde while the other ships returned to Scapa Flow. (17)

7 Mar 1943
The battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and the destroyers ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Hvalfjord. (18)

10 Mar 1943
The battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and the destroyers ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) arrived at Hvalfjord from Scapa Flow.

Before entering some exercises were carried out. (18)

20 Mar 1943
The battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and the destroyers ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) departed Hvalfjord for Scapa Flow. En route various exercises were to be carried out with a force proceeding from Scapa Flow to Hvalfjord.

The ' opposing force ' was made up of the battleship HMS Howe (Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, CB, RN), light cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, OBE, RN), HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN), destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Echo (Lt. R.H.C. Wyld, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Brecon (Lt.Cdr. T.D. Herrick, DSC and Bar, RN). (19)

22 Mar 1943
The battleship HMS Anson (Capt. H.R.G. Kinahan, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and the destroyers ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow from Hvalfjord. (19)

20 Apr 1943
The battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN) departed Gibraltar for Scapa Flow. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Velox (Lt. G.B. Barstow, RN) and HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, DSC, RN).

Around 1530/22, the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) and ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski) joined HMS Malaya.

At 1550/22, HMS Antelope, HMS Velox and HMS Wishart were detached. They arrived back at Gibraltar on April, 24th.

Around midnight during the night of 24/25 April, HMS Matchless, HMS Meteor and ORP Piorun were detached to Londonderry to fuel. They had been reliever by the destroyers HMCS Iroquois (Cdr. W.B.L. Holms, RCN), HMS St. Marys (Lt. D.B.G. Dumas, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Stevenstone (Lt. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN). (20)

5 May 1943

Convoy TA 41B.

This convoy was only made up of one ship, the troopship Queen Mary (British, 81235 GRT, built 1936). She departed the Clyde on 5 May 1943 for New York and had on board about 5000 German POW's and also Prime Minister Churchill and his staff.

The AA cruiser HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, DSO, RN) departed Scapa Flow on 4 May 1943 and provided close escort for the troopship.

On 5 May 1943, the light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) departed Scapa Flow to provide cover. HMS Glasgow returned to Scapa Flow on 10 May apparently having turned back on 8 May.

Also on 5 May 1943, the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. G. Grantham, CB, DSO, RN) departed Greenock to provide air cover for the Queen Mary during the first part of her voyage. The carrier was escorted by the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN) and HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN). They turned back very late on 6 May and HMS Indomitable and HMS Eclipse returned to the Clyde on the 8th. HMS Matchless and HMS Mahratta were detached on the 8th to proceed to Scapa Flow where they arrived later on the same day.

Also on 5 May 1943, the light cruiser HMS Uganda (Capt. W.G. Andrewes, RN) and AA cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN) departed Plymouth to make rendezvous with the Queen Mary. Rendezvous was effected on 7 May. Most likely HMS Scylla then parted company as she arrived at Plymouth on 8 May. HMS Charybdis parted company around 2100A/8 to return to Plymouth where she arrived on 10 May.

The Queen Mary then continued on escorted by HMS Uganda.

At 1345N/9, the heavy cruisers USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. J.B.W. Waller, USN), USS Augusta (Capt. G. Hutchins, USN) and the destroyers USS Fitch (T/Cdr. K.C. Walpole, USN), USS Corry (T/Cdr. L.B. Ensey, USN), USS Hobson (T/Lt.Cdr. K. Loveland, USN) and Murphy (T/Cdr. L.W. Bailey, USN) joined. They had departed Argentia, Newfoundland on 6 May. HMS Uganda parted company shortly afterwards and proceeded to Argentia, arriving there on 11 May.

In the morning of the 10th the four US destroyers were relieved by four other destroyers, these were USS Mervine (T/Cdr. S.D. Willingham, USN), USS Quick (T/Cdr. P.W. Cann, USN), USS Beatty (T/Cdr. F.C. Stelter, Jr., USN) and USS Tillman (T/Cdr. F.D. McCorkle, USN).

The Queen Mary and her USN escort arrived at New York on 11 May.

25 May 1943
During 25/26 May 1943, the battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. L.H. Ashmore, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow during which she was escorted by the destroyers HMCS Athabascan (Cdr. G.R. Miles, DSO, OBE, RCN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN). (21)

2 Jun 1943
HMS Syrtis (Lt. M.H. Jupp, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, DSO, RN). (22)

25 Jul 1943

Operation Governor.

The object of this operation was again to pin down enemy forces in Norway and try to get the large German warships to intervene.

Five Force took part in the operation;
' Force A ', which was made up of the battleships HMS Anson (Rear-Admiral H.R.G. Kinahan, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN) and USS Alabama (Capt. F.D. Kirtland, USN), aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. R.L.B. Cunliffe, RN) and the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) and HMS Musketeer (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), USS Rodman (T/Cdr. J.F. Foley, USN), USS Emmons (T/Cdr. E.B. Billingsley, USN), USS Macomb (T/Cdr. J.C. South, USN) and USS Fitch (T/Cdr. K.C. Walpole, USN).

' Force B ' which was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, KCB, KBE, RN), USS South Dakota (Capt. L.D. McCormick, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN), aircraft carrier HMS Unicorn (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Grenville (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, DSO, RN), HMS Ulster (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Donald, DSC, RN), HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt. P. Bekenn, RN).

' Force C ' representing a convoy, was made up of the destroyers HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN, Senior Officer ' Force C '), HMS Ripley (Lt. L.G. Toone, RN), trawlers HMS Cedar (T/Skr. B. Godfrey, RNR), HMS Hawthorn (T/Lt. G.W. Fox, RNVR), HMS Larch (T/Skr. J.G. Mackay, RNR), HMS Lilac (T/Skr. J.W. Brown, RNR), HMS Oak (A/Skr.Lt. P. Buchan, DSC, RNR), HMS Skye (T/Lt. W.G. Burt, RNR), HMS Switha (T/Lt. L.H. Green, RNR), HMS Willow (T/Lt. J.E.W. Graves, RNVR), Motor Launches HMML 252 (T/Lt. T.R. Neale, RNVR), HMML 286 (T/Lt. J.R.T. Ward, RNVR), HMML 442 (T/Lt. R.W. Dunn, RANVR), HMML 445 (T/Lt. B.W. Kelly, RNVR), HMML 473 (T/Lt. J.C. Sargeant, RNVR), and the landing craft HMLCI(L) 167 (?).

' Force D ' was made up of the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.C.A. Ingram, DSC, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN).

' Force E ' which was made up of the heavy cruisers HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, CB, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. D.K. Bain, RN).

On 25 July, ' Force C ' departed from Scapa Flow for Sullom Voe where it arrived the following day.

On 26 July ' Force A ' departed from Hvalfiord to pass through position ' N ' (66°30'N, 08°00' W) and then through position ' P ' (66°00'N, 01°30'E).

On 27 July ' Force E ' departed from Hvalfiord for position ' M ' (67°20'N, 02°00'W).

' Force B ' departed from Scapa Flow to pass through position ' W ' (61°40'N, 04°40'W) and then through position ' T ' (61°30'N, 01°30'E).

' Force C ' departed from Sullom Voe to pass through position ' U ' (61°45N, 00°50W) and then through postition ' S ' (61°50'N, 01°00'E).

' Force D ' (minus both destroyers) departed from Scapa Flow to proceed to position ' V ' (62°15'N, 05°20'W) where they were to rendezvous on the 28th with the destroyers coming from Skaalefiord, Faeroer Island and then to position ' R ' (62°00'N, 00°30'E).

On 28 July ' Force D ' was sighted and reported by enemy aircraft. The other forces were apparently not sighted by the Germans.

Beaufighters shot down two BV 138's in the vicinity of ' Force D ' and damaged two others.

Martlets from HMS Illustious shot down two BV 138's in the vicinity of Forces ' A ' and ' D '.

' Force D ' joined ' Force A ' in position ' Q ' (63°10'N, 01°30'E). The two destroyers from ' Force D ' were then detached to return to Skaalefiord where they arrived on the 29th.

All forces commenced to withdraw.

' Force C ' arrived at Sullom Voe, sailing PM for Scapa Flow.

' Force B ' arrived at Scapa Flow.

Forces ' A ' and ' D ' (less the two destroyers) arrived at Scapa Flow.

On 30 July ' Force C ' arrived at Scapa Flow and ' Force E ' arrived at Hvalfiord. (23)

5 Aug 1943

Convoy TA 58.

This convoy was only made up of one ship, the troopship Queen Mary (British, 81235 GRT, built 1936) which departed the Clyde on 5 August.

On board the Queen Mary was Prime Minister Churchill, Chiefs of Staff and their entourage which were en-route to the Quebec conference.

Close (A/S) escort for the convoy was provided by the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) which had departed Londonderry on 5 August. They returned to the Clyde on 8 August.

Two destroyers had already left Londonderry on the 4th, these were HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN). These probably first proceeded westwards at economical speed and later took over from HMS Matchless and HMS Scorpion. They arrived at Argentia, Newfoundland on 9 August.

Cover for this convoy was provided by the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. R.L.B. Cunliffe, RN) which was escorted by HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN). They departed the Clyde around 1230B/5 and returned there around 1000B/8.

During daylight on the 6th, the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) provided cover for the convoy. She had departed Scapa Flow around 0300B/5 and returned there around 0630B/8.

Close escort for the convoy was provided by the light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow around 0500B/5 and joined the troopship around 2200B/5. She remained with the troopship until around 0930B/7 when course was set to return to Scapa Flow where she arrived around 1600B/9.

The heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN) sailed from Hvalfjord around 0130Z/5. She first sighted the Queen Mary with HMS Bermuda in company around 1930Z/6. She remained with or near the Queen Mary until 0815Z/8 when she parted company to proceed to Argentia, Newfoundland where she arrived around 1000N/9.

The light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. E.M. Evans-Lombe, RN) joined HMS Kent around 0650Z/7. She parted company around 2145Z/7. HMS Glasgow had departed Plymouth around 1545B/4 and returned there around 1830B/10.

Shortly before HMS Kent parted company with the Queen Mary the heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. J.B.W. Waller, USN) and the destroyers USS Isherwood (T/Cdr. R.E. Gadrow, USN), Luce (T/Cdr. D.C. Varian, USN), USS Bell (T/Cdr. L.C. Petross, USN) and Hale (T/Cdr. K.F. Poehlmann, USN) joined coming from Charleston, South Carolina which they had departed on the 4th together with the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (Capt. G. Rowe, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN) and the destroyers USS Forrest (T/Cdr. K.P. Letts, USN), USS Corry (T/Cdr. L.B. Ensey, USN) and USS Hobson (T/Lt.Cdr. K. Loveland, USN) which were also in the area providing air cover with the aircraft of USS Ranger.

The convoy arrived at Halifax on the 9th.

14 Aug 1943
The battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, KCB, KBE, RN and with H.M. the King on board), HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. W.E. Parry, CB, RN), light cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Phoebe (Capt. C.P. Frend, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Ulster (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Donald, DSC, RN) and HMCS Huron (Lt.Cdr. H.S. Rayner, DSC, RCN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. They had been led out of the harbour by HMIS Godavari (Capt. J.W. Jefford, OBE, RIN). (24)

24 Aug 1943
Around 1245/24, HMS Renown (Capt. W.E. Parry, CB, RN), departed Scapa Flow for Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is escorted by the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN).

On the 26th the destroyers dropped astern in the heavy weather and they were later ordered to proceed to St. Johns where they arrived on the 29th.

HMS Renown arrived at Halifax also on the 29th (around 1000/29). (25)

14 Sep 1943
Around 1530/14 HMS Renown (Capt. W.E. Parry, CB, RN) departed Halifax for the UK. On board were the Prime Minister (Churchill) and his entourage. At sea HMS Renown wass joined by an escort made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN).

At 0730/16, the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. D.K. Bain, RN) joined coming from Hvalfiord, Iceland which she had departed on 13 September.

Around 1430/16, the destroyers HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN) joined coming from St. Johns. HMS Obdurate and HMS Obedient were then detached to Argentia.

Around 0300/18, the destroyers HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) joined coming from Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Around 1100/18, the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (Capt. G. Rowe, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral O.M. Hustvedt, USN) joined coming from Scapa Flow. She was escorted by the destroyers USS Forrest (T/Cdr. K.P. Letts, USN), USS Hobson (T/Lt.Cdr. K. Loveland, USN) and USS Corry (T/Cdr. L.B. Ensey, USN).

At 1405/18, HMS Kent parted company to proceed to Scapa Flow.

At 1900/18, USS Ranger and her escorting destroyers parted company to proceed to Scapa Flow.

At 0050/19, HMS Norfolk parted company to proceed to Scapa Flow.

Around 0900/19, HMS Renown, HMS Matchless, HMS Orwell, HMS Scorpion and HMS Scourge arrived in the Clyde.

The Prime Minister and his entourage then disembarked from HMS Renown. (26)

5 Oct 1943
Around 2100A/5, the battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. L.H. Ashmore, RN) and the aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious (Capt. R.L.B. Cunliffe, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral C. Moody, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) and HMS Unicorn (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar for the U.K. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Hardy (Lt.Cdr. R. Horncastle, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN), HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill), HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN) and HMS Inglefield (A/Cdr. C.F.H. Churchill, DSC, RN).

At 1948A/6, HMS Illustrious and HMS Formidable parted company to return to Gibraltar after they had been ordered to do so. They took HMS Venus, HNoMS Stord, HMS Obedient and HMS Inglefield with them. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1445A/7.

At 1745A/7, HMS Matchless broke down. HMS Mahratta was ordered to stand by her while the other ships continued. They rejoined around 1800A/8.

At 0810A/9, HMS Valiant, HMS Mahratta and HMS Matchless parted company and set course for Plymouth where they arrived around 1600A/10.

HMS Unicorn, HMS Onslow and HMS Hardy proceeded to Greenock arriving there around 1130A/10. (27)

23 Oct 1943

Operation FR.

Sailing of Russian small craft (American built) from Iceland to Northern Russia as well as escorts for an upcoming convoy operation from Northern Russia.

On 23 October 1943, ' Force 3 ', which was made up of the Russian minesweepers T-111, T-113, T-114, T-115 and the submarine chasers BO-201, BO-202, BO-203, BO-204, BO-206 and BO-210. These were former US minesweepers of the Admirable-class and SC-class submarine chasers. These ships were escorted by the destroyer HMS Westcott (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN), corvette HNoMS Eglantine (?) and the minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. H.E.H. Nicholls, RN) and HMS Seagull (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.W Ellis, DSC, RNR).

On 30 October 1943 the Russian ships were detached off the Kola Inlet escorted by a Russian destroyer which has come out to meet them.

The British escorts then proceeded to Archangelsk arriving there on 31 October.

On 24 October 1943, ' Force 4 ', which was made up of the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, RN), HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) departed Seidisfjord to proceed to the Kola Inlet. They were to provide close cover for ' Force 3 ' during its passage. ' Force 4 ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 28 October 1943.

On 25 October 1943, ' Force 5 ', which made up of of the heavy cruisers HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.F.E. Palliser, CB, DSC, RN) and USS Augusta (Capt. G. Hutchins, USN) departed Akureyri to provide distant cover for ' Force 3 ' and ' Force 4 '.

Having completed this objective USS Augusta arrived at Hvalfjord on 29 October 1943 and HMS London arrived at Scapa Flow on 30 October 1943. (28)

1 Nov 1943

Operation FS, passage of convoy RA 54A.

Convoy RA 54A

.

This convoy departed Archangelsk on 1 November 1943 for the U.K.

On departure from Archanglesk the convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Beaconhill (American, 6941 GRT, built 1919), British Governor (British (tanker), 6840 GRT, built 1926), City of Omaha (American, 6124 GRT, built 1920), Empire Fortune (British, 6140 GRT, built 1943), Empire Gaillard (British, 7170 GRT, built 1942), Empire Kinsman (British, 6744 GRT, built 1942), Empire Portia (British, 7058 GRT, built 1942), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Israel Putnam (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Mobile City (American, 6157 GRT, built 1920), Pontfield (British, 8319 GRT, built 1940), Thomas Hartley (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942) and Tobruk (Polish, 7048 GRT, built 1942).

On departure from Archangelsk the convoy was escorted by the destroyer HMS Westcott (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN), minesweepers HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN), HMS Harrier (Cdr. H.E.H. Nicholls, RN), HMS Jason (Cdr. H.G.A. Lewis, RN), HMS Seagull (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.W Ellis, DSC, RNR) and the corvette HNoMS Eglantine (?). The Russian destroyers Gromkiy and Valerian Kyubishev were also with the convoy.

On 2 November 1943, ' Force 3 ', made up of the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Mahratta (Lt.Cdr. E.A.F. Drought, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, RN), HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) departed the Kola Inlet to join the convoy which they did the following day. HMS Harrier, HMS Seagull and the two Russian destroyers were then detached.

On 8 November 1943, HMS Matchless and HMS Musketeer were detached to Seidisfjord where they were to fuel.

On 9 November 1943, HMS Savage and HMS Westcott were also detached to fuel at Seidisfjord.

On completion of fuelling HMS Westcott departed Seidisfjord to rejoin the convoy. She departed Seidisfjord together with ' Force 4 ', made up of the escort destroyers HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.D.E. Vivian, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN) and the minesweepers HMS Halcyon (T/A/Lt.Cdr. L.J. Martin, RNVR) and HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Williams, RD, RNR). They joined the convoy on the 10th, the destroyers HMS Milne, HMS Mahratta, HMS Saumarez, HMS Scorpion and HMS Scorpion then parted company with the convoy to proceed to Seidisfjord.

On the 13th, HMS Middleton detached to proceed to the Clyde.

Also on the 13th the convoy split into several parts to proceed their individual destinations with local escorts.

From the escorts, HMS Brissenden proceeded to Loch Ewe. HMS Britomart, HMS Halcyon, HMS Jason and HMS Speedwell proceeded to Scapa Flow. HMS Westcott and HMS Eglantine proceeded to Liverpool. All ships arrived on the 13th except for HMS Westcott and HMS Eglantine arrived on the 14th.

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For close cover, ' Force 1 ' of the light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) and the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. D.K. Bain, RN) was deployed. This force departed Seidisfjord on 2 November to provide cover for the convoy between positions 73°58'N, 31°32'E and 71°19'N, 00°58'W

On the 8th, ' Force 1 ' split up with HMS Kent and HMS Norfolk set course for Scapa Flow arriving there on the 9th. HMS Belfast set course for Hvalfjord also arriving on the 9th.

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' Force 2 ' was the distant cover force, it was made up of the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN), HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill), HMCS Haida (Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, RCN), USS Hobson (T/Lt.Cdr. K. Loveland, USN) and USS Capps (T/Cdr. B.E.S. Trippensee, USN). ' Force 2 ' departed Akureyri on 2 November to proceed to a patrol area near position 72°27'N, 09°30'E.

' Force 2 ' arrived at Scapa Flow on 8 November 1943. (15)

15 Nov 1943

Operation FT, passage of convoys JW 54A and JW 54B from the U.K. to Northern Russia as well as convoy RA 54B from Northern Russia to the U.K.

Convoy JW 54A

.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 15 November 1943 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Daniel Drake (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Edmund Fanning (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Empire Carpenter (British, 7025 GRT, built 1943), Empire Celia (American, 7025 GRT, built 1943), Empire Nigel (British, 7067 GRT, built 1943), Fort Yukon (British, 7153 GRT, built 1943), Gilbert Stuart (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Henry Villard (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Gordon Bennett (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Smith (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), Junecrest (British, 6945 GRT, built 1942), Mijdrecht (Dutch (tanker), 7493 GRT, built 1931), Norlys (Panamanian (tanker), 9892 GRT, built 1936), Ocean Vanity (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Verity (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Park Holland (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Thomas Sim Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942) and William Windon (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943).

The rescue vessel Copeland (British, 1526 GRT, built 1923) was also with the convoy.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. P.J. Cowell, DSC, RN), HMS Termagent (Lt.Cdr. J.P. Scatchard, DSC, RN), ORP Burza (Cdr. F. Pitulko, ORP), escort destroyer HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.D.E. Vivian, RN), minesweeper HMS Hussar (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Biggs, DSO, DSC, RN) and the corvette HMS Heather (T/Lt. W.L. Turner, RNR).

On 17 November, the destroyer HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfjord, Iceland to join the convoy. She was escorting the Russian minesweepers T 116, T 117 and patrol vessels BO 205, BO 207 and BO 212 which were to join the convoy for passage to Northern Russia. [These were the former American minesweepers AM 143 / Arcade, AM 144 / Arch and patrol vessels SC 1287, SC 1074 and SC 721 respectively.]

Later on 17 November the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), HMCS Iroquois (Cdr. J.C. Hibbard DSC, RCN), HMCS Haida (Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, RCN), HMCS Huron (Lt.Cdr. H.S. Rayner, DSC, RCN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. P. Bekenn, RN) also sailed from Seidisfjord to join the convoy.

On 18 November all ships that had departed Seidisfjord the day before joined the convoy. HMS Termagant, ORP Burza and HMS Brissenden then parted company with the convoy. The British ships proceeded to Seidisfjord arriving on the 19th, ORP Burza set course to return to Loch Ewe also arriving on the 19th.

On 19 November HMS Obedient developed serious rudder defects and she returned to Seidisfjord arriving later the same day.

On 24 November eight of the merchant vessels arrived in the Kola Inlet escorted by HMS Onslow, HMS Onslaught, HMS Obedient, HMS Orwell, HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Haida, HMCS Huron and HMS Impulsive. The five small Russian craft that had been with the convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet on the 25th.

The remaining ships proceeded to Archangelsk escorted by HMS Inconstant, HMS Whitehall, HMS Hussar and HMS Heather. These were later replaced by the minesweeper HMS Seagull (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.W Ellis, DSC, RNR), two Russian destroyers and three Russian minesweepers. On the joining of these ships HMS Inconstant, HMS Whitehall and HMS Heather parted company and proceeded to Iokanka. The remainder of the convoy arrived in the Archangelsk area on the 26th.

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Convoy JW 54B

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This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 22 November 1943 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Arthur L. Perry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Empire Lionel (British, 7030 GRT, built 1942), Empire Stalwart (British, 7045 GRT, built 1943), Eugene Field (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Fort Columbia (British, 7155 GRT, built 1942), Fort McMurray (British, 7133 GRT, built 1942), Fort Poplar (American, 7134 GRT, built 1942), Horace Gray (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943), John Fitch (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Strength (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), San Adolfo (British (tanker), 7365 GRT, built 1935), Thomas Kearns (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943) and William L. Marcy (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942).

The rescue ship Rathlin (British, 1600 GRT, built 1936) was also part of the convoy.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. N.R. Murch, RN), HMS Saladin (T/A/Lt.Cdr. P.G.C. King, RNVR), HMS Skate (Lt. J.C. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), escort destroyer HMS Middleton (Lt. C.S. Battersby, RN), minesweepers HMS Halcyon (T/A/Lt.Cdr. L.J. Martin, RNVR), HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Williams, RD, RNR) and the corvettes HMS Poppy (T/Lt. D.R.C. Onslow, RNR) and HMS Rhododendron (T/Lt. O.B. Medley, RNVR).

On 23 November the corvette HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.F. Tognola, RNR) joined the convoy.

On 25 November the destroyers HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN), HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN), HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill), HMS Hardy (Lt.Cdr. R. Horncastle, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN) and HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN) departed Seidisfjord, Iceland and joined the convoy. HMS Saladin, HMS Skate, HMS Middleton and HMS Speedwell then parted company and proceeded to Seidisfjord where they arrived on the 26th except for HMS Speedwell which went to Scapa Flow arriving there on the 29th.

On 2 December seven of the merchant vessels detached from the convoy escorted by HMS Saumarez, HMS Savage, HMS Scorpion, HMS Scourge, HNoMS Stord, HMS Hardy, HMS Venus, HMS Vigilant and HMS Halcyon. They proceeded to the Kola Inlet arriving there later the same day.

The other ships continued on to Archangelsk escorted by HMS Beagle, HMS Dianella, HMS Poppy and HMS Rhododendron. They arrived at Archangelsk on 3 December.

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Convoy RA 54B

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This convoy departed Archangelsk on 26 November 1943 for the U.K.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Aritgas (Panamanian, 5613 GRT, built 1920), Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), Bering (American, 7631 GRT, built 1920), Dover Hill (British, 5815 GRT, built 1918), Empire Scott (British, 6150 GRT, built 1941), Llandaff (British, 4825 GRT, built 1927), Marathon (Norwegian, 7208 GRT, built 1930), Norlys (Panamanian (tanker), 9892 GRT, built 1936) and Pieter de Hoogh (Dutch, 7168 GRT, built 1941).

The rescue ship Copeland (British, 1526 GRT, built 1923) was also part of the convoy.

On departure from Archangelsk the convoy was escorted by the minesweepers HMS Hussar, HMS Seagull and the A/S trawler HMS Lord Austin (T/Lt. E.L. Wathen, RNR). Also three Russian minesweepers were with the convoy escort.

On 27 November the destroyers HMS Inconstant, HMS Whitehall, minesweeper HMS Harrier (Cdr. H.E.H. Nicholls, RN) and corvette HMS Heather departed Iokanka and joined the convoy. The three Russian minesweepers were then detached.

On 28 November the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Onslaught, HMS Orwell, HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Haida, HMCS Huron and HMS Impulsive departed the Kola Inlet and joined the convoy. HMS Hussar and HMS Seagull were then detached to the Kola Inlet where they arrived the following day.

On 4 December HMCS Iroquois was detached to Seidisfjord to fuel. She arrived there later the same day.

On 5 December the destroyers HMS Saladin, HMS Skate and escort destroyers HMS Middleton and HMS Brissenden departed Seidisfjord to join the convoy which they did later the same day. Also on 5 December, first HMS Onslaught and HMCS Huron detached from the convoy and arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel. Then HMCS Haida and HMS Impulslive detached and arrived Seidisfiord to fuel and finally HMS Onslow and HMS Orwell also arrived Seidisfiord to fuel.

On 8 December the convoy split in two and proceeded to east and west coast harbour with local escorts (trawlers).

HMS Inconstant and HMS Whitehall proceeded to the Clyde arriving on 9 December.

HMS Saladin and HMS Skate proceeded to Londonderry arriving on 9 December.

HMS Heather and HMS Lord Austin proceeded to Liverpool arriving there also on 9 December.

HMS Middelton, HMS Brissenden and HMS Harrier proceeded to Scapa Flow arriving there later on the 8th.

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A close cover force was deployed. This was ' Force 1 ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.F.E. Palliser, CB, DSC, RN) and the light cruisers HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) and HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, DSO, RN) departed Seidisfjord on 19 November to provide cover for convoy JW 54A between 15°00'E and 41°00'E.

' Force 1 ' arrived in the Kola Inlet on 24 November.

' Force 1 ' departed the Kola Inlet on 27 November to provide cover for convoy JW 54B between 15°00'E and 41°00'E and RA 54B between 41°00'E and 05°00'E.

On 3 December, HMS Jamaica was detached to Hvalfjord where she arrived on 5 December.

On 4 December, HMS Kent and HMS Bermuda arrived at Scapa Flow.

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Also a distant cover force was deployed. This was ' Force 2 ', the battle force, which was made up the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. J.B.W. Waller, USN) and the destroyers USS Forrest (T/Cdr. K.P. Letts, USN), USS Fitch (T/Cdr. K.C. Walpole, USN), USS Corry (T/Cdr. L.B. Ensey, USN) and USS Hobson (T/Lt.Cdr. K. Loveland, USN) departed Akureyri on 19 November to cover convoy JW 54A from approximate position 73°00'N, 11°00'E.

On 24 November, while on passage back to Akureyri, USS Tuscaloosa was detached to Hvalfiord where she arriving later on the same day.

HMS Anson arrived at Akureyri also on 24 November escorted by the American destroyers which then went on to Hvalfjord.

On 28 November ' Force 2 ', now made up of the battleship HMS Anson, light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Ashanti (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN) departed Akureyri to provide cover for convoy JW 54B and RA 54B from approximate position 73°00'N, 11°00'E.

On 29 November the destroyers had to be detached due to heavy weather as they were unable to keep up without sustaining damage. In fact, HMS Matchless had sustained damage and proceeded to Seidisfjord with defects. The destroyers rejoined on 1 December.

On 4 December ' Force 2 ' arrived at Scapa Flow. HMS Matchless also arrived there on the same day. (15)

28 Nov 1943
' Force 2 ', now made up of the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, DSO, RN), HMS Ashanti (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO, RN) departed Akureyri to provide cover for convoy JW 54B and RA 54B.

[For more info see the event ' Operation FT, passage of convoys JW 54A and JW 54B from the U.K. to Northern Russia as well as convoy RA 54B from Northern Russia to the U.K. ' for 15 November 1943.] (29)

12 Dec 1943

Operation FV, passage of convoys JW 55A and JW 55B to Northern Russia and RA 55A and RA 55B from Northern Russia and the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst.

Convoy JW 55A

.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 12 December 1943 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Collis P. Huntington (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Daniel Willard (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942), Empire Archer (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Pickwick (British, 7068 GRT, built 1943), Fort Astoria (British, 7189 GRT, built 1943), Fort Hall (British, 7157 GRT, built 1943), Fort Missanabie (British, 7147 GRT, built 1943), Fort Thompson (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), George Weems (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), James A. Farrell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), James Woodrow (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942), Lapland (British, 2897 GRT, built 1942), Lewis Emery Jr. (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Lucerna (British, 6556 GRT, built 1930), Philip Livingston (American, 7176 GRT, built 1941), San Ambrosio (British (tanker), 7410 GRT, built 1935), Stage Door Canteen (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Thistledale (British, 7241 GRT, built 1942) and Thomas Scott (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyer HMS Westcott (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN), minesweepers HMS Harrier (Cdr. H.E.H. Nicholls, RN), HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Williams, RD, RNR), HMS Cockatrice (A/Lt.Cdr. C.W. Armstrong, RNR) and the corvette HNoMS Acanthus (?).

on 15 December the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt. W.D. Shaw, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Virago (Lt.Cdr. A.J.R. White, RN), HMS Ashanti (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN) and HMCS Athabascan (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, RCN) joined the convoy coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands. HMS Harrier and HMS Cockatrice were then detached with orders to proceed to Skaalefjord.

On 20 December 1943 the convoy split into two sections, one for Murmansk with the original escort and one for Archangelsk with a new escort made up of the minesweepers HMS Hussar (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Biggs, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Halcyon (T/A/Lt.Cdr. L.J. Martin, RNVR), the Russian destroyers Gromkiy, Grozniy, Valerian Kyubishev as well as three Russian minesweepers.

The Murmansk section arrived at its destination on 21 December 1943, the Archangelsk section a day later.

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Convoy JW 55B

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This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 20 December 1943 for Northern Russia.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Bernard N. Baker (American, 7191 GRT, built 1943), British Statesman (British (tanker), 6991 GRT, built 1923), Brockhorst Livingston (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Cardinal Gibbons (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Fort Kullyspell (British, 7190 GRT, built 1943), Fort Nakasley (British, 7132 GRT, built 1943), Fort Verscheres (British, 7128 GRT, built 1942), Harold L. Winslow (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), John J. Abel (American, 7191 GRT, built 1943), John Vining (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), John Wanamaker (British, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Norlys (Panamanian (tanker), 9892 GRT, built 1936), Ocean Gipsy (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Messenger (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Pride (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Valour (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Viceroy (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Thomas U. Walter (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and Will Rogers (American, 7200 GRT, built 1942).

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. P.J. Cowell, DSC, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), minesweepers HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, DSC and Bar, RN), Hound (A/Cdr.(Retd.) A.H. Wynne-Edwards, RN), Hydra (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.T.J. Wellard, RNR) and the corvettes HMS Borage (Lt. W.S. MacDonald, DSC, RNVR), HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt. C.W. Leadbetter, RNR) and HMS Wallflower (Lt. G.R. Greaves, RNR).

On 22 December 1943 the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, DSC, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. P. Bekenn, RN), HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN), HMCS Iroquois (Cdr. J.C. Hibbard DSC, RCN), HMCS Haida (Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, RCN) and HMCS Huron (Lt.Cdr. H.S. Rayner, DSC, RCN) joined the convoy coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands. HMS Hound, HMS Hydra, HMS Borage and HMS Wallflower were then detached to Skaalefjord.

For 23 December 1943 onwards the convoy was shadowed by enemy aircraft, U-boats joined them the following day.

On 24 December 1943, the convoy reversed it's course for a few hours in order to have the battle cover force ' Force 2 ' close the distance due to the threat to the convoy of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst [see below for more info in the resulting ' Battle of the North Cape '.]

On 25 December 1943, the destroyers HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago joined the convoy having detached from convoy RA 55A. They were detached again the following day and joined cover force ' Force 1 ' [again see below for more info].

On 26 December the convoy was diverse to the north to evade the Scharnhorst. Later in the day, following the sinking of the German ship the convoy resumed its normal course.

On 28 December 1943 the convoy split into two sections, one for Murmansk with the original escort and one for Archangelsk with a new escort made up of the minesweepers HMS Hussar, HMS Halcyon, HMS Speedwell, the Russian destroyers Razyarenniy, Razumniy, Valerian Kyubishev as well as four Russian minesweepers.

The Murmansk section arrived at its destination on 29 December 1943, the Archangelsk section a day later.

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Convoy RA 55A

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This convoy departed the Kola Inlet (Murmansk) on 22 December 1943 for the U.K.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Arthur L. Perry (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Daniel Drake (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Edmund Fanning (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Empire Carpenter (British, 7025 GRT, built 1943), Empire Celia (British, 7025 GRT, built 1943), Empire Nigel (British, 7067 GRT, built 1943), Fort McMurray (British, 7133 GRT, built 1942), Fort Yukon (British, 7153 GRT, built 1943), Gilbert Stuart (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Henry Villard (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Smith (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), Junecrest (British, 6945 GRT, built 1942), Mijdrecht (Dutch (tanker), 7493 GRT, built 1931), Ocean Strength (British, 7173 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Vanity (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Verity (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Park Holland (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), San Adolfo (British (tanker), 7365 GRT, built 1935), Thomas Kearns (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943), Thomas Sim Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), William L. Marcy (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942) and William Windom (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943).

The rescue vessel Rathlin (British, 1600 GRT, built 1936) was also with the convoy.

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Milne, HMS Matchless, HMS Meteor, HMS Musketeer, HMS Opportune, HMS Virago, HMS Ashanti, HMCS Athabascan, HMS Westcott, HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. N.R. Murch, RN), minesweeper HMS Jason (Cdr. H.G.A. Lewis, RN) and the corvettes HMS Dianthus (A/Lt.Cdr. B.J. Bowick, RNVR) and HMS Poppy (T/Lt. D.R.C. Onslow, RNR).

On 23 December the merchant vessel Thomas Kearns had to return with defects.

On 25 December, HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago were detached to join JW 55B.

On 26 December the convoy got scattered during a gale.

On 28 December HMCS Athabascan and HMS Beagle were detached to Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands where they arrived on the 29th.

On 30 December, the minesweepers HMS Hound, HMS Hydra and the corvettes HMS Borage and HMS Wallflower joined the convoy. They had departed Skaalefjord on the 29th.

Also on the 30th, HMS Ashanti and later HMS Westcott were detached to fuel at Skaalefiord.

On 31 December HMS Westcott rejoined the convoy after fuelling at Skaalefiord.

Also on 31 December HMS Milne and HMS Meteor were detached from the convoy to proceed direct to Scapa Flow arriving there later the same day. HMS Seagull was also detached for Scapa Flow also arriving the same day but later then the destroyers.

The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on 1 January 1944, escorted by HMS Borage and HMS Wallflower.

HMS Hound and HMS Hydra had been detached to return to Skaalefiord where they arrived on 2 January 1944.

HMS Westcott, HMS Acanthus, HMS Dianella and HMS Poppy had been detached to proceed to east coast ports to rejoin the Western Approaches Command. They arrived at their destinations on 2 January 1944.

Convoy RA 55B

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This convoy departed the Kola Inlet (Murmansk) on 31 December 1943 for the U.K.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Daldorch (British, 5571 GRT, built 1930), Empire Stalwart (British, 7045 GRT, built 1943), Fort Columbia (British, 7155 GRT, built 1942), Fort Poplar (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), James Gordon Bennett (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Lucerna (British, 6556 GRT, built 1930), San Ambrosio (British (tanker), 7410 GRT, built 1935) and Thomas Kearns (American, 7194 GRT, built 1943).

On departure from the Kola Inlet the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Onslaught, HMS Orwell, HMS Impulsive, HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Haida, HMCS Huron, HMS Whitehall, HMS Wrestler, minesweepers HMS Halcyon, HMS Hussar, HMS Speedwell and the corvettes HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron (T/Lt. O.B. Medley, RNVR).

On 1 January 1944, HMS Halcyon, HMS Hussar, HMS Speedwell were detached to return to the Kola Inlet where they arrived the following day.

On 6 January 1944, the minesweepers Ready (Cdr. A.V. Walker, RN) and Orestes (Lt.Cdr. A.W.R. Adams, RN) joined the convoy coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands.

Also on 6 January 1944, HMCS Huron, HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron fuelled at Skaalefjord and then rejoined the convoy.

On 7 January 1944, HMS Onslow, HMS Onslaught, HMS Orwell, HMS Impulsive, HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Haida, HMCS Huron parted company with the convoy to proceed to Scapa Flow where they arrived later the same day.

On 8 January 1944, the convoy arrived at Loch Ewe escorted by HMS Ready and HMS Orestes.

HMS Whitehall, HMS Wrestler, HMS Honeysuckle, HMS Oxlip and HMS Rhododendron had parted company shortly before arrival to proceed to East coast ports to rejoin the Western Approaches Command.

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' Force 1 '

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' Force 1 ' was the cruiser cover force for these convoy's. It was made up of the light cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral R.L. Burnett, CB, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, RN) and the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. D.K. Bain, RN).

On 16 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', departed Seidisfjord, Iceland to provide cover for Convoy JW 55A.

On 19 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', arrived in the Kola Inlet.

On 23 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', departed the Kola Inlet to provide cover for convoys RA 55A and JW 55B.

On 26 December 1943, ' Force 1 ', was joined by the destroyers HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago and ' Force 1 ' was in action with the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst during which HMS Sheffield and HMS Norfolk were damaged [see below for more info.]

On 27 December 1943, ' Force 1 ' arrived in the Kola Inlet to fuel and make temporary repairs to the damaged ships.

On 29 December 1943, ' Force 1 ' (HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield and HMS Norfolk) departed the Kola Inlet for Scapa Flow where they arrived on 1 January 1944.

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' Force 2 '

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' Force 2 ' was the battle cover force for these convoy's. It was made up of the battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, KCB, KBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Savage (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, DSO, RN), HMS Saumarez (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill).

On 12 December 1943, ' Force 2 ' had departed Scapa Flow for the Kola Inlet where it arrived on 16 December 1941.

On 18 December 1943, ' Force 2 ', departed the Kola Inlet to provide cover from convoy JW 55A.

On 21 December 1943, ' Force 2 ', arrived at Akureyri, Iceland. It was swept in by the minesweepers HMS Loyalty (Lt.Cdr. James Edward Maltby, RNR).

On 23 December 1943, ' Force 2 ', departed Akureyri to provide cover for convoys JW 55B and RA 55A.

On 26 December 1943, ' Force 2 ' was in action with the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst [see below for more info.]

On 27 December 1943, ' Force 2 ' arrived in the Kola Inlet to fuel and to make some repairs.

On 28 December 1943, ' Force 4 ', made up of HMS Duke of York, HMS Jamaica, HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune, HMS Virago, HMS Savage, HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord departed the Kola Inlet for Scapa Flow. HMS Saumarez was unable to sail, her action damage some more repairs.

On 1 January 1944, ' Force 4 ' arrived at Scapa Flow.

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Action with and sinking of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst, 26 December 1943.

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Dispositions at 0400A/26.

At 0400A/26, the situation in the Bear Island area was as follows;

Westbound convoy RA 55A was about 220 nautical miles to the westward of Bear Island in approximate position 74°42'N, 05°27'E, steering 267°, speed 8 knots. This convoy was apparently still not detected by the enemy.

Eastbound convoy JW 55B was about 50 miles south of Bear Island in approximate position 73°31'N, 18°54'E, steering 070°, speed 8 knots.

' Force 1 ', the cruiser force, was in position 73°52'N, 27°12'E (some 150 nautical miles to the eastward of convoy JW 55B. They were steering 235° at 18 knots.

' Force 2 ', the battle force, was in position 71°07'N, 10°48'E, some 350 miles to the south-west of the cruisers. They were proceeding on course 080° at 24 knots. In the weather conditions the destroyers had difficulty keeping up and the bow of HMS Duke of York was almost constantly under water.

Convoy JW 55B had been sighted and shadowed by aircraft for a while and when flying conditions deteriorated U-boats had been in contact with the convoy. Admiral Fraser had no doubt that this convoy would be the target for the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst and the destroyers Z 29, Z 30, Z 33, Z 34 and Z 38 which were known to be at sea. He therefore decided to divert the convoy to the northward in order to increase the enemy's difficulties in finding it. This would entail breaking wireless silence and revealing the presence of covering forces but the decided that the safety of the convoy must be the primery object. At 0628A/26, Convoy JW 55B was ordered to steer 045° and ' Force 1 ' was ordered to close it for support.

' Force 1 ' altered course to 270° at 0712A/26 in order to approach the convoy from the southward and thus, in the event of action, to avoid steaming into the strong south-westerly wind and heavy seas. Course was held for an hour, and after receiving the position, course and speed of the convoy, course was altered to 300° at 0815A/26. Speed was increased to 24 knots.

Meanwhile the German battlegroup had continued to proceed northwards and at 0730 hours was in estimated position 73°52'N, 23°10'E. Soon afterwards the destroyers were detached to form a reconnaissance line 10 miles ahead of the Scharnhorst. Some of the destroyers did not receive this order and as a result they moved ahead but the area of their search was not the one intended. At 0800 hours the German battlegroup altered course to 230°, probably on account of a submarine report on the position of the convoy. At this time the destroyers were some 10 miles ahead of the battlecruiser, spread approximately in line abreast but it seems that soon afterwards the Scharnhorst turned to the north-eastward, and all communication between her and the destroyers broke down. Communication was restored two hours later but the destroyers never rejoined the battlecruiser.

First contact with the enemy.

At 0840A/26, HMS Belfast picked up a radar contact at 35000 yards, bearing 295°. The Belfast's estimasted position was then 73°35'N, 23°21'E and Vice-Admiral Burnett reckoned the convoy was bearing 287°, 48 nautical miles from him. At the same time Capt. McCoy in HMS Onslow placed the enemy about 36 nautical miles, bearing 125°, from the convoy.

In the Belfast the range of the main echo decreased rapidly, and twenty minutes later - at 0900A/26 - a second echo was obtained, bearing 299°, 24500 yards. This second echo remained on a steady bearing till 0930A/26, when, from its estimated speed of 8-10 knots, the Vice-Admiral considered that it was probably a merchant ship from the convoy, and disregarded it. It may well have been, however, one of the enemy destroyers, detached to shadow the convoy.

At 0915A/26 the main echo bore 250°, 13000 yards, speed approximately 18 knots. At this time ' Force 1 ' was formed on a line of bearing 180°, in the order HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield and HMS Norfolk, HMS Belfast being the northern ship. The line of bearing had just been altered to 160°, when at 0921A/26, HMS Sheffield reported ' enemy in sight ' bearing 222°, 13000 yards. At 0924A/26, HMS Belfast opened fire with starshell and at 0929A/26, ' Force 1 ' was ordered to engage with main armament, course being altered 40° towards the enemy, to 265°. HMS Norfolk opened fire at a range of 9800 yards, but had to drop back to clear the Belfast's range. She continued firing till 0940 and obtained one git, with her second or third salvo, either on the crow's nest of the bridge port director, which caused several casualties, and possible a hit on the forecastle. The 6" cruisers did not fire during this phase of the action, nor did the enemy, whole altered course to about 150°, steaming at 30 knots. ' Force 1 ' altered to 105° at 0938A/26 and to 170° at 0946A/26 by which time the range had opened to 24000 yards and chased to the southward, but the enemy drew away and the range continued to increase.

At 0955A/26, the Scharnhorst altered course to the north-east, and Vice-Admiral Burnett at once appreciated that she was trying to work round to the northward of the convoy for a second attempt to attack it. Possibly this was the result of an exhortation from Admiral Dönitz which appears to have been received and read to her ship's company around this time. In the prevailing weather conditions - wind force 7 to 8 from the southwest - ' Force 1's ' maximimum speed was 24 knots, and as that of the enemy appeared to be 4 to 6 knots faster the Vice-Admiral decided that he must get between the Scharnhorst and the convoy. He therefore altered course to 305° at 1000A/26, and to 325° at 1014A/26, with result that six minutes later contact was lost with the enemy bearing 078°, 36000 yards, and steering to the north-east at about 28 knots.

Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief had ordered Capt. McCoy, the escort commander, to turn the convoy to the northward at 0930A/26, and to send four destroyers to join ' Force 1 ' at 0937A/26. HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago were detached at 0951A/26. They joined Vice-Admiral Burnett at 1024A/26. By 1030A/26, when it was clear to the Commander-in-Chief that ' Force 1 ' had lost touch with the enemy, and he was again closing the convoy, he ordered convoy JW 55B to resume course 045°.

Second engagement of ' Force 1 '.

Half an hour after losing touch with the enemy ' Force 1 ' made radar contact with the convoy, bearing 324°, 28000 yards, at 1050A/1, and the cruisers commenced zigzagging 10 miles ahead of it, with the four destroyers disposed ahead as a screen.

At 1058A/1, the Commander-in-Chief informed Vice-Admiral Burnett that ' Force 2 ' wound have little chance of finding the enemy unless some unit regained touch with him and shadowed, but in view of the enemy's advantage in speed under the prevailing weather conditions, the Vice-Admiral ' rightly considered it undesirable to split his force by detaching one or more ships to search, feeling confident that the enemy would return to the convoy from the north or north-east '. An hour went by, and the Commander-in-Chief found himself faced with the difficult question of the destroyers fuel situation. He had ' either to turn back or go to the Kola Inlet, and if the Scharnhorst had already turned for home, these was obviously no chance of catching him. This latter contingency was by no means improbable, for ' Force 2 ' had been shadowed from the starboard quarter by three enemy aircraft since about 1000A/26, and their reports had presumably been passed to the Scharnhorst. Then, at 1205A/26, came a signal from HMS Belfast reporting radar contact again with the enemy, and he knew that there was every prospect of cutting him off.

The convoy had remained on a course of 045° till just before noon, when Capt. McCoy, who had been ordered by the Commander-in-Chief at 1122 hours to use his discretion as to its course, altered to 125° in order to keep ' Force 1 ' between the convoy and the probable direction of the enemy. HMS Norfolk had reported a radar contact at 27000 yards at 1137A/26, but had lost it a few minutes later, and by noon, when the convoy was turning to 125°, ' Force 1 ' was in position 74°11'N, 22°18'E, steering 045°, 18 knots, with the convoy about 9 miles on the port quarter. Five minutes later (1205A/26), HMS Belfast radar picked up the enemy bearing 075°, 30500 yards. Vice-Admiral Burnett concentrated his four destroyers on his starboard bow, and at 1219A/26, altered course to 100°. The enemy course and speed was estimated at 240°, 20 knots. A minute later the Scharnhorst appeared to alter course slightly to the westward and at 1221A/26, HMS Sheffield reported ' enemy in sight '. ' Force 1 ' immediately opened fire, and the destroyers were ordered to attack with torpedoes, but were unable to reach a firing position owing to the weather conditions, and the enemy's hurried retirement.

This second action, fought by the cruisers at ranges from 9000 to 16000 yards, lasted about 20 minute, and again the Scharnhorst was ' most effectively driven off the convoy by Force 1's determined attack '. The enemy altered course from west round to south-east, increasing speed to 28 knots, and the range soon began to open. Several hits were claimed by the cruisers, but only one, which struck the port side aft and apparently failed to explode, was subsequently confirmed by prisoners. HMS Musketeer, however, which was herself engaging the enemy at a range of 4500 yards, consided there were others, and the prisoners agreed that the cruisers fire was unpleasantly accurate and filled the air with fragments.

At 1233A/26, 12 minutes after the action started, HMS Norfolk received two hits, one through the barbette of 'X' turret, which was put out of action, and one amidships. All radar, except Type 284, became unsericeable and these were several casualties. One officer and six ratings were killed and five seriously wounded. At the same time an 11" salvo straddled HMS Sheffield, and several pieces of shell, came inboard, fragments penetrated the ship at various points.

By 1241A/26, the enemy was on a course of 110° steaming 28 knots, and the range had opened to 12400 yards. Vice-Admiral Burnett decided to check fire, and to shadow with his whole force until the Scharnhorst could be engaged by ' Force 2 '. He therefore increased speed to 28 knots, and at 1250A/26, the enemy range and bearing were steady at 13400 yards, 138°. The destroyers, to the westward of the cruisers, continued to pursue the enemy in line ahead, their range opeing to 20000 yards and then remaining steady.

Shadowing operations.

The Scharnhorst had by this time given up all idea of attacking the convoy and for the next three hours her course was to the south-east and south. As she was retiring on a course so favourable for interception by ' Force 2 ', Vice-Admiral Burnett did not re-engage, and kept his cruisers concentrated, shadowing by radar from just outside visual range, about 7.5 nautical miles and slightly to the eastward of the enemy's course. The four destroyers of ' Force 1 ', which owing to the heavy sea had been unable to close the enemy sufficiently to attack with torpedoes, was stationed to the westward by the Commander-in-Chief at about 1600A/26 to guard against the Scharnhorst breaking back in that direction towards the convoy or Alten Fjord.

Despite her damage HMS Norfolk kept up with ' Force 1 ' throughout the afternoon, but at 1603A/26, she was obliged to reduce speed to fight a fire and a few minutes later, at 1607A/26, HMS Sheffield dropped back, reporting her port inner shaft out of action and speed reduced to 10 knots. By 1621A/26, she was able to proceed at 23 knots, but the delay and reduction of speed prevented her from rejoining HMS Belfast until about 2100A/26. For the rest of the action she remained some 10 miles astern. HMS Norfolk was able to rejoin HMS Belfast around 1700A/26.

Movements of the German destroyers.

All this time, while the Scharnhorst was being gradually haunded to her doom, the German destroyers had played a singularly ineffective part. After losting contact soon after 0800A/26, they continued on the south-westerly course (230°) to which the force had just turned, spread approximately five miles apart. No orders were received from the Flag Officer, Battle Group, until 1009A/26 - just after the close of the first action with Vice-Admiral Burnett's cruisers - when a signal was received directing the destroyers ' to advance into the immediate vicinity of the convoy '. To this Z 29, the Flotilla Leader, replied that they were advancing according to plan, course 230°, speed 12 knots. Twenty minutes later, Admiral Bey had apparently come to the conclusion that the convoy was further to the north then that he had previously supposed, and at 1027 he ordered the Flotilla to alter course to 070° and to increase speed to 25 knots, an hour later (1135A/26) he ordered a further change of course to 030°.

At 0945A/26, a report from the submarine U-277 had been received in the Scharnhorst placing the convoy in position 73°58'N, 19°30'E, but this seems to have been disregarded by Admiral Bey and it was not until two-and-a-half hours later (1218A/26), that he ordered the destroyers to operate in this area. Course was accordingly altered to 280° and the flotilla concentrated on the northern ship but it was too late and the convoy was well to the north-eastward of the position reported by the U-boat, though the destroyers must have passed within 10 miles of it at about 1300A/26 on passage to the new area, owing to Capt. McCoy's turn to the south-eastward at noon. On this Admiral Bey was unaware, and at 1418A/26, he ordered the destroyers to break off the operation and make for the Norwegian coast. With the excetion of Z 33, which had become separated in the bad weather, the Flotilla - then some 16 nautical miles south-east of Bear Island - at once altered course to 180° and eventually entered Norwegian coastal waters at about 0200A/27.

Z 33 made her own way back, at 1810A/26, she sighted what was believed to be a straggler from the convoy. At this target she fired four torpedoes, which missed, and continued on her way to her base.

Movements of the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet ' Force 2 '.

Meanwhile ' Force 2 ', acting on reports of Vice-Admiral Burnett's cruisers, had been steering throughout the day to intercept. During the first two cruiser engagements the composition of the enemy's force was not clear to the Commander-in-Chief, but on confirmation by the Vice-Admiral that only one heavy unit was present, he decided to engage on similar courses, with HMS Jamaica in support, opening fire at about 13000 yards and detaching his destroyers to make a torpedo attack. At 1400A/26 he estimated that if the enemy maintained his course and speed, ' Force 2 ' would engage him at about 1715A/26, but the Scharnhorst altered to the south soon afterwards, and at 1617A/26 the Duke of York's Type 273 radar picked her up at 45500 yards bearing 020°. The range closed rapidly, and soon HMS Belfast was picked up astern of the target. At 1632A/26, a quarter of an hour after the first contact, the Duke of York's Type 284 found the enemy at 29700 yards, apparently zig-zagging on a mean course of 160°. Five minutes later, the destroyers, which had formed sub-divisions on either bow of the flagship shortly after first contact, were ordered to take up most advantageous position for torpedo attack, but not to attack until ordered to do so. The destroyers had formed sub-divisions as follows, HMS Savage with HMS Saumarez and HMS Scorpion with HNoMS Stord.

At 1642A/26, the enemy seemed to alter course slightly to port and two minutes later ' Force 2 ' altered to 080° in order to open 'A' arcs. At 1647A/26, HMS Belfast opened fire with starshell, followed at 1648A/26 by HMS Duke of York. Those from the latter illuminated the enemy at 1650A/26. The Commander-in-Chief then made an enemy report and ' Force 2 ' opened fire with their main armament.

' Force 2 ' engages, 1650-1844 hours, 26 December 1943.

When HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica opened fire at 12000 yards. There was every indication that the Scharnhorst was completely unaware of their presence, her turrets were reported trained fore and aft, she did not immediately reply to the fire of ' Force 2 ' and when she did her fire was erratic. Prisoners subsequently confirmed that she had made no radar contact during the approach of ' Force 2 '. They had been told they would not have to engage anything larger then a cruiser and were badly shaken when informed that a capital ship to the southward was engaging them.

The Scharnhorst altered round at once to the northward, and the Duke of York to 360° to follow and also to avoid torpedoes which the enemy, had he been on the alert, might have been fired. On this, HMS Belfast prepared to fire torpedoes, but the Scharnhorst altered away to the eastward, probably with the double object of avoiding ' Force 1 ' and opening 'A' arcs, and HMS Belfast and HMS Norfolk then engaged her with their main armamant, steering northerly and north-easterly courses in order to prevent her breaking back to the north-westward, until 1712A/26, when she ran out of range, after firing two ineffective salvoes at the cruisers. Vice-Admiral Burnett continued to the north-north-west until 1720A/26, and it was then apparent that the enemy meant to escape to the eastward, gradually altered round to follow. Just then orders were received from the Commander-in-Chief to ' steer 140° ' and join him, and the cruisers steadied on a south-easterly course at 1727A/26.

The hunt was up, and for the next hour there was a chase to the eastward, HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica engaging at ranges which gradually increased, as the enemy's superior speed began to tell. By 1708A/26, the Scharnhorst was steadily on an easterly course and engaging HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica with her main armamant. Her tactics were to turn to the southward, fire a broadside, and then turn on end-on away to the east till ready to fire the next salvo, making the Duke of York's gunners a problem.

By 1730A/26, the situation was as follows. To the south-west of the enemy HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica were engaging him and pursuing similar tactics. ' Force 2's ' destroyers - still well astern of him - were endeavouring to gain bearing to attack with torpedoes, taking individual avoiding action when fired on, HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez edging over to get on his port side while HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord remained on the starbord side. To the north-west, HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago, which had turned at 1700A/26, was creeping up on a easterly course roughly parallel to that of the enemy and some miles to the northward. Further to the north-west HMS Belfast and HMS Norfolk were steering to the south-eastward to join the Commander-in-Chief, with HMS Sheffield some distance astern, and dropping owing to her reduced speed. What the German Admiral though of the situation may be judged from his signal to the German War Staff (timed 1724 hours); ' Am surrounded by heavy units '.

HMS Duke of York probably obtained hits with her first and third salvoes, which, accordingly to prisoners, were on the quarter deck close to ' C ' turret, and low down forward. This latter may have put ' A ' turret out of action as it did not fire again. Little is known about other hits during this first engagement, but it seems certain that HMS Duke of York had obtained hits which may have caused some underwater damage that eventually reduced the Scharnhorst speed. HMS Jamaica claimed on hit.

The Scharnhorst's gunfire was erratic to begin with but later improved as the range increased. Between ranges of 17000 - 20000 yards HMS Duke of York was straddled several times. Her hull was not hit but both masts were shot through by 11" shells which fortunately did not explode.

By 1742A/26, the range had opened to 18000 yards and HMS Jamaica then ceased fire, her blind fire at this range considered of doubtful value and liable to confuse the Duke of York's radar spotting. At this time all the cruisers were out of range, and the destroyers had not yet been seriously engaged by the enemy. The gun duel between HMS Duke of York and the Scharnhorst continued till 1820A/26 when the enemy ceased firing at 20000 yards, and reduced speed, though this was not immediately apparent. At the same time the Commander-in-Chief decided to turn south-eastward towards the Norwegian coast, in the hope she would also lead round and so to give his destroyers a chance to attack. At 1824A/26, the range having opened to 21400 yards, HMS Duke of York checked fire. She had fired 52 broadsides, of which 31 have been reported as straddles and 16 as within 200 yards of the enemy.

Just at this moment the Scharnhorst was sending her final signal - a message from Admiral Bey to the Führer - ' We shall fight to the last shell '. This was the last report the German Naval Staff received from her as to her fate, though no doubt they were able to draw their conclusions three-quarters of an hour later (1919A/26) when they intercepted a British signal ' Finish her off with torpedoes '.

First destroyer attack, 1850 hours, 26 December 1943.

At 1824A/26, the Commander-in-Chief was of the opinion that the Scharnhorst might escape and much depended on the four 'S-class' destroyers to damage of sink her. Since 1713A/26, when they had been ordered to attack, they had been gradually gaining bearing on the Scharnhorst, but their progress was very slow and their chances of attack depended on a radical alteration of course by their quarry. Then, at 1820A/26, when they had closed to 12000 yards they started to forge ahead. The enemy had reduced speed. By 1840A/26, the first sub-division (HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez), astern of the enemy, and the second sub-division (HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord), on his starboard beam, had each closed to about 10000 yards. Some three minutes earlier, the Commander-in-Chief, observing on his radar plot the enemy's reduction of speed, had altered course directly towards her, and was beginning to close rapidly.

The Scharnhorst opened a fairly heavy, though ineffective, fire on HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez, which they returned when the range closed to 7000 yards. As these two approached from the north-westward, drawing the enemy's fire, HMS Scorpion and HNoMS Stord were closing in apparently unseen, and certainly unengaged from the south-eastward. At 1849A/26, starshells from HMS Savage illuminated the enemy, and she was seen to be turning to the southward. The Scorpion and Stord immediately swung to starboard, each firing eight torpedoes at 2100 and 1800 yards respectively. HMS Scorpion claimed one hit, HNoMS Stord none, probably due to the Scharnhorst combing the latter's tracks. Both destroyers were engaged by the enemy's secondary and light armament while retiring, the the firing was wild and inflicted no damage. They returned the fire and scored several hits on the superstructure. The Scharnhorst continued to alter round to starboar after this attack till on a south-westerly course, thus placing HMS Savage and HMS Saumarez in an excellent position on her starboard bow. Her movements could be followed clearly in the light of their starshell, and HMS Savage with HMS Saumarez on her starboard quarter, hastily training their torpedo tubes to starboard, turned in to attack at 1855A/26, coming under heavy fire from the enemy's entire armament as they did so. HMS Savage fired eight torpedoes from 3500 yards, but HMS Saumarez received damage which prevented her training one set of tubes, and got off only four from 1800 yards. Subsequent analysis credited there attacks with three hits altogether. The destroyers then withdrew to the northward, engaging the Scharnhorst as they did so. Fortunately damage to HMS Saumarez was all above the waterline. Shells had passed through her director and rengefinders without exploding, but she had suffered considerably from splinters which reduced her speed to 10 knots on one engine only. One officer and ten ratings were killed and eleven ratings were wounded.

Second engagement of ' Force 2 '.

As the destroyers withdrew to the northward, HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica coming up from the south-west, re-engaged at a range of 10400 yards, opening fire at 1901A/26. Hits were immediately scored, while the enemy continued to fire at the retiring destroyers. HMS Norfolk, too joined in from the northward, but had difficulty in finding the right target, and checked fire after a couple of salvoes. After five minutes, when the Scharnhorst had been repeatedly hit and fires and flashes from exploding ammunition were flaring up, she shifted her secondary armament fire to HMS Duke of York at a range of about 8000 yards. During this second action she apparently engaged HMS Duke of York and HMS Jamaica with only part of her main armament, and that intermittently.

The battle was then approaching its end. Between 1901A/26 and 1926A/26 the enemy's speed fell drastically from 20 to about 5 knots. At 1915A/26, HMS Belfast opened fire on her at a range of 17000 yards, and a few minutes later she steadied on a northerly course. About this time (1919A/26) the Commander-in-Chief ordered HMS Jamaica and HMS Belfast to close the enemy, who was then almost stationary, and to sink her with torpedoes. HMS Duke of York continued firing - getting of 25 broadsides, of which 21 were straddles - till 1928A/26, when she checked fire to enable the cruisers, which had altered course towards the enemy to diliver their torpedo attacks. According to prisoners HMS Duke of York had obtained at least 10 hits.

Torpedo attacks by HMS Belfast and HMS Jamaica.

In the Scharnhorst - battered by gunfire and crippled by four torpedoes - resistance was pracically at an end as the cruisers closed in from north and south. Prisoners subsequently stated that after sending their final signal to Hitler, assuring him that the Scharnhorst would fight to the last shell, the Admiral and Captain had shot themselves on the bridge but this could not be confirmed.

HMS Jamaica fired three torpedoes to port (one of which misfired) at 1925A/26 from 3500 yards but claimed no hits as the enemy's speed appeared to have been underestimated. Two minutes later HMS Belfast also fired three torpedoes, one of which may have git, though this was subsequently considered unlikely. Both cruisers then hauled round to fire their remaining tubes. Meanwhile HMS Jamaica scored several hits with her main and secondary armamant. The Scharnhorst replied with wild fire from her secondary armamant and light weapons which did no damage and had ceased firing altogether when at 1937A/26, at a range of 3750 yards, HMS Jamaica fired three torpedoes to starboard at the enemy, broadside on and almost stopped. The result could not be seenm as the target was completely hidden by smoke, but underwater explosions were heard after the correct time interval, and it is probable that two torpedoes took effect. Two minutes earlier (1935A/26), HMS Belfast had turned to fire her port torpedoes but then HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago arrived at the scene and HMS Belfast retired to the south to await developments.

Torpedo attacks by the 36th Destroyer Division.

The 36th Division, made up of HMS Musketeer, HMS Matchless, HMS Opportune and HMS Virago, starting the chase well to the westward of the other forces, had been tracking the enemy by radar and slowly gaining bearing on a parallel course to the northward throughout the action. The destroyers now closed in sub-divisions (HMS Musketeer with HMS Matchless and HMS Opportune with HMS Virago) from the north and astern. At 1930A/27 they commenced their attacks, HMS Musketeer and HMS Matchless from the port side and HMS Opportune and HMS Virago from the starboard side. HMS Opportune fired two salvoes of four torpedoes each at 1931A/26 and 1933A/26 from range of 2100 and 2500 yards. She claimed two hits. HMS Virago followed her in, and at 1934A/26 fired seven torpedoes from 2800 yards. Two hits were observed and the sub-division then retired to the westward with HMS Virago firing on the enemy as long as possible.

On the port side, HMS Musketeer fired four torpedoes from 1000 yards at 1933A/26 and observed two and possibly three hits and then withdrew to the westward. HMS Matchless could not fire as her torpedo tubes training had been effected by a heavy sea. She therefore hauled round without firing and then came in to attack again from the enemy's port bow, but before she could fire the Scharnhorst had sunk. She then joined HMS Scorpion in picking up survivors. The German ship was last seen around 1938A/26 though no ship saw her actually sinking. This most probably occured at 1945A/26 when a large underwater explosion was felt.

For the next hour, HMS Belfast, HMS Norfolk and most of the destroyers searched the area for survivors. In all only thirty were picked up in the heavy weather from the icy waters by HMS Scorpion and six by HMS Matchless. No officer was among them. The most senior was the equivalant rating of Acting Petty Officer.

Conclusion.

Around 2100A/26, HMS Sheffield rejoined ' Force 1 ' and all forces in the area were ordered to proceed independently to the Kola Inlet where they all arrived unmolested the next day.

(30)

13 Jan 1944
The battleship HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. W.Y.La R. Beverley, RN) and the destroyer HMS Matchless (Lt. W.D. Shaw, RN) and HMS Obdurate (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, DSO and Bar, RN) (and possibly others) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. (31)

15 Jan 1944
HMS Sunfish (Lt. H.J. Bartlett, DSC, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Matchless (Lt. W.D. Shaw, RN). (32)

27 Mar 1944

Convoy JW 58.

This convoy departed Loch Ewe on 27 March 1944 and arrived in the Kola Inlet on 4 April 1944.

On departure the convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Andrew Carnegie (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Arunah S. Abell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Barbara Frietchie (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Benjamin H. Latrobe (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Benjamin Schlesinger (American, 7176 GRT, built 1944), Charles Gordon Curtis (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Charles Henderson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Dolabella (British, 8142 GRT, built 1939), Edward P. Alexander (American, 7201 GRT, built 1943), Empire Prowess (British, 7058 GRT, built 1943), Fort Columbia (British, 7155 GRT, built 1942), Fort Hall (British, 7157 GRT, built 1943), Fort Kullyspell (British, 7190 GRT, built 1943), Fort Vercheres (British, 7128 GRT, built 1942), Fort Yukon (British, 7153 GRT, built 1943), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Francis Vigo (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), George Gale (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), George M. Cohan (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), George T. Angell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1944), Grace Abbott (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Hawkins Fudske (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Henry Villard (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), James Smith (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), John B. Lennon (American, 7198 GRT, built 1943), John Carver (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John Davenport (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John McDonogh (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Joseph N. Nocollet (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Joshua Thomas (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Joyce Kilmer (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Julien Poydras (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Lacklan (British, 8670 GRT, built 1929), Morris Hillquit (American, 7210 GRT, built 1944), Nicholas Biddle (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Noreg (Norwegian (tanker), 7605 GRT, built 1931), Pierre S. Dupont (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Thomas Sim Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Townsend Harris (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), W.R. Grace (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), William D. Byron (American, 7210 GRT, built 1944), William Matson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), William McKinley (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943), William Moultrie (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), William Pepper (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and William S. Thayer (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943).

The rescue vessel Rathlin (British, 1600 GRT, built 1936) was also with the convoy.

On departure from Loch Ewe the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Westcott (Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. P.J. Cowell, DSC, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr J.H. Eaden, DSC and Bar, RN), minesweepers Rattlesnake (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Coles, RD, RNR), Orestes (Lt.Cdr. A.W.R. Adams, RN), HMS Onyx (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.C.L. Gaussen, RNVR) and the corvettes HMS Bluebell (Lt. G.H. Walker, DSC, RNVR), HMS Honeysuckle (T/Lt. J.A. Wright, RNR), HMS Lotus (Lt. C.S. Thomas, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (T/Lt. O.B. Medley, RNVR) and HMS Starwort (Lt. A.H. Kent, RNR).

On 28 March 1944, the light cruisers HMS Diadem (Capt. E.G.A. Clifford, RN), i>USS Milwaukee (T/Capt. C.F. Fielding, USN), escort carriers HMS Activity (Capt. G. Willoughby, RN), HMS Tracker (A/Capt. J.H. Huntley, RN) and the destroyers HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN), HMS Serapis (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HNoMS Stord (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill) departed Scapa Flow to join the convoy which they did on 29 March.

The sloops HMS Starling (Capt. F.J. Walker, CB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Wild Goose (Lt.Cdr. D.E.G. Wemyss, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Whimbrel (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Moore, DSC, RNR), HMS Wren (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR) and HMS Magpie (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Abram, RN) departed Scapa Flow also on 28 March to join the convoy which they too did on 29 March.

On 29 March 1944, the destroyers HMS Saumarez (Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN), HMS Onslow (Capt. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.C.A. Ingram, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.F. Leonard, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. P. Bekenn, RN), HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. N.R. Murch, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.W. Hawkins, RN), HMS Keppel (Cdr. I.J. Tyson, DSC, RD, RNR) and HMS Walker (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) departed Skaalefiord, Iceland and joined the convoy.

On 29 March 1944, the German submarine U-961 was sunk near the convoy by HMS Starling.

Also on 29 March, two more merchant ships joined the convoy, these were the Gilbert Stuart (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) and John T. Holt (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943) coming from Reykjavik, Iceland. The merchant vessel Eloy Alfaro (American, 7176 GRT, built 1944) had also sailed with them but had to return and proceeded to Seidisfjord before she could join the convoy due to ice damage. She arrived at Seidisfjord on the 30th. These ships were escorted by the frigate HMS Fitzroy (Lt. C.D.C. McNeil, RNVR) and the minesweepers HMS Chamois (T/A/Lt.Cdr. D.P. Richardson, RNVR) and HMS Chance (T/Lt. P.P. Lees, RNVR). These escorts did not join the convoy.

Also on 29 March the minesweepers HMS Rattlesnake, HMS Onyx, HMS Orestes and the corvette HMS Starwort parted company with the convoy. The minesweepers proceeded to Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands arriving there later the same day. HMS Starwort proceeded to Londonderry arriving the on the 30th.

On 30 March four German shadowing aircraft were shot down by fighters from the escort carriers which themselves lost two aircraft.

On 31 March the German submarine U-673 was damaged by HMS Beagle and aircraft from HMS Tracker.

On 2 April two German shadowing aircraft were shot down by fighters from the escort carriers. Also the German submarine U-360 was sunk by Hedgehog attack from HMS Keppel.

On 3 April the German submarine U-288 was sunk by aircraft from the escort carriers.

ON 4 April, the convoy (39 ships) was split into two sections, one proceeded to the Kola Inlet arriving later the same day with the original escort. The other (with 10 ships), with a local escort which joined on this day to the White Sea where it arrived on the 6th. This local escort was made up of the Russian destroyers Gremyashchiy, Razumniy, Razyarenniy and Valerian Kyubishev.

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Distant cover for this convoy was provided by a battleforce known as ' Force 1 ', it departed Scapa Flow around 1200A/30 and was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, GCB, KBE, RN), HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. the Hon. A. Pleydell-Bouverie, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN) and HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN).

Around 0250A/31, the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Mackenzie, RD, RNR) and HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN) joined coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands.

Around 0340A/31, the original destroyer screen were detached to Skaalefjord arriving there later the same day.

On 2 April ' Force 1 ' proceeded to join ' Force 2 ' coming from Scapa Flow for the upcoming Operation Tungsten. (33)

30 Mar 1944

Operation Tungsten

Air attacks by the FAA against the German battleship Tirpitz

Around 1200A/30, ' Force 1 ', departed Scapa Flow. It was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, GCB, KBE, RN), HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. the Hon. A. Pleydell-Bouverie, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN) and HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN).

Ships of ' Force 1 ' was first to provide cover for Convoy JW 58 for part of it's passage to Northern Russia.

Around 1900A/30, ' Force 2 ' departed Scapa Flow. It was made up of the light cruisers HMS Royalist (Capt. M.H. Evelegh, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.W.la T. Bisset, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, DSO, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSO, DSC, RN), escort carriers HMS Searcher (Capt. G.O.C. Davies, RN), HMS Pursuer (A/Capt. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Fencer (A/Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck, OBE, RN), HMS Emperor (A/Capt. T.J.N. Hilken, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Swift (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, RN), HMS Verulam (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, DSC, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Virago (Lt.Cdr. A.J.R. White, RN) and HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN).

The RFA oilers Black Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) and Blue Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) were also with ' Force 2 '.

Around 0250A/31, the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Mackenzie, RD, RNR) and HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN) joined ' Force 1 ' coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands.

Around 0340A/31, the original destroyer screen of ' Force 1 ' was detached to Skaalefjord arriving there later the same day.

On 2 April ' Force 1 ' fuelled its destroyers (by the battleships) and proceeded to join ' Force 2 ' coming from Scapa Flow for the upcoming Operation Tungsten. Rendezvous was effected around 1600A/2.

Some regrouping was done and the battleship HMS Duke of York and the destroyers HMS Marne and HMS Matchless parted company to proceed to position 74°00'N, 12°30'E from where they were to provide cover for the operation.

' Force 1 ' was now made up of HMS Anson, HMS Victorious, HMS Furious, HMS Belfast, HMS Jamaica, HMS Milne, HMS Meteor, HMS Swift, HMS Ursa, HMS Undaunted and HMS Virago. This force proceeded to the flying off position for Operation Tungsten which was in approximately 71°30'N, 19°00'E.

' Force 2 ' was now made up of HMS Royalist, HMS Sheffield, HMS Searcher, HMS Pursuer, HMS Fencer, HMS Emperor, HMS Onslaught, HMS Verulam, HMS Vigilant, HMS Wakeful, HMCS Algonquin and HMS Sioux.

And there was also ' Force 7 ' the oiling force made up of the RFA oilers Black Ranger, Blue Ranger escorted by ORP Piorun and HMS Javelin.

In the morning of 3 April, HMS Victorious and HMS Furious launched air strikes against the German battleship Tirpitz in the Altafjord. In two strikes the German battleship was hit by a total of 15 bombs. In total 123 of the crew of the Tirpitz were killed and 329 were wounded for the loss of only four British aircraft.

Course was then set by all units to return to Scapa Flow.

Around 1400A/3, the escort carrier HMS Searcher, which had developed engine trouble, parted company with ' Force 2 '. She was given an escort, made up of the the light cruiser HMS Jamaica and the destroyers HMS Virago and HMS Wakeful.

On 4 April the destroyer HMS Ulysses (Lt.Cdr. R.J. Hanson, DSO, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join ' Force 7 ', the oiling force as additional escort.

HMS Duke of York, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless arrived around 0915A/5.

' Force 1 ' and ' Force 2 ' arrived around 1600A/6.

Around 0115A/7, HMS Searcher, HMS Jamaica, HMS Virago and HMS Wakeful arrived at Scapa Flow.

Around 0330A/7, the fuelling force arrived at Scapa Flow. (33)

28 May 1944

Operations Tiger Claw, Cambridge and Lombard.

Operation Tiger Claw was a FAA attack on the German battleship Tirpitz. Operation Cambridge was a reconnaissance operation of the Narvik area. In the event, of both these operations being cancelled owing to weather, Operation Lombard, airstrikes on enemy shipping in the Aalesund area was planned.

Around 1300B/28, Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN, struck his flag in HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN) and hoisted it in HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN).

Around 1400B/28,' Force 7 ', made up of the aircraft carriers Victorious, HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSO, DSC, RN), heavy cruisers HMS Berwick (Capt. N.V. Grace, RN), HMS Devonshire (Capt. D.K. Bain, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Whelp (Cdr. G.A.F. Norfolk, RN), HMS Wager (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Watkin, RN), HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN), HMS Wizard (Lt.Cdr. D.T. McBarnet, DSC, RN) and HMS Nubian (Lt.Cdr. T.A. Pack-Beresford, RN).

Around 0355B/29, the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. M. Richmond, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) and HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, DSC, RN) joined coming from Skaalefjordl, Faeroer Islands. HMS Whelp and HMS Nubian then parted company to return to Scapa Flow.

Before reaching the flying off position for operation Tiger Claw a sighting report from an enemy U-boat was intercepted on 30 May by HMS Milne and judged to be within 30 miles. In view of this and the quite unsuitable weather reports of the target area, Vice Admiral Moore decided to abandon operations Tiger Claw and Cambridge and turned southwards to carry out Operation Lombard in the Aalesund area. The report of HMS Milne was indeed correct as the German submarine U-957 had sighted and reported ' Force 7 ' and had even fired a T-5 acoustic torpedo at it.

Meanwhile a battle force made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, GCB, KBE, RN), HMS Anson, light cruisers HMS Bermuda (Capt. J.S. Bethell, CBE, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN), and the destroyers HMS Whelp, HMS Wessex (Lt.Cdr. R. Horncastle, RN) and HMS Nubian had departed Scapa Flow around 1745B/29 and proceeded north passing 40 nautical miles east of the Faroer Islands on 30th May in order to be sighted by the German air reconnaissance and thus create a diversion for ' Force 7 '. In this the force was successfully as it was sighted early on the 30th by an enemy aircraft which was heard to make a signal immediately afterwards. The battleforce then returned to Scapa Flow arriving there around 2115B/30.

In the evening of 1 June, ' Force 7 ' arrived in the flying off position and the weather was found to be favourable. A strikeforce of 6 Barracudas and 22 Corsairs from HMS Victorious and 10 Barracudas and 12 Seafires from HMS Furious was flown off and a convoy, reported during the afternoon by an RAF Mosquito, was found and attacked. All three merchant ships were hit by bombs and the escorting flak ships were nearly all hit by the fighters. It is believed that two merchant ships and one escort vessel subsequently sank. (The ammuniton ship Hans Leonhardt (4170 GRT, built 1938) was sunk and the Florida (5542 GRT, built 1944) and Sperrbrecher 181 (1864 GRT, built 1943) were bombed and caught fire following which they were run aground). No German aircraft were encountered either over the target or the Fleet. One Corsair from HMS Victorious and one Seafire from HMS Furious failed to return.

' Force 7 ' arrived back at Scapa Flow around 2045B/2.

Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN, then struck his flag in HMS Victorious and hoisted it again in HMS Anson. (33)

10 Jun 1944
Around 1945B/10, the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, GCB, KBE, RN), HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), HMS Howe (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSO, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. M. Richmond, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Rosyth where they arrived around 0800B/11. (34)

16 Jun 1944
HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN) proceeded from Rosyth to Scapa Flow. She was escorted by HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN). (35)

11 Jul 1944
HMS Shakespeare (Lt. D. Swanston, DSC and Bar, RN) conducted A/S exercises with HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, DSC, RN). (36)

15 Dec 1944
HMS Sibyl (Lt. H.R. Murray, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. S.O Roche, DSO, RN). (37)

16 Dec 1944
HMS Sibyl (Lt. H.R. Murray, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow together with HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. S.O Roche, DSO, RN). (37)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. ADM 53/116383
  2. ADM 173/17283
  3. ADM 199/427 + ADM 234/369
  4. ADM 53/115829 + ADM 53/116134 + ADM 53/116366 + ADM 53/116736
  5. ADM 234/359
  6. ADM 53/116366 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
  7. ADM 199/429
  8. ADM 199/427
  9. ADM 234/353
  10. ADM 199/651 + ADM 234/353
  11. ADM 53/116595 + ADM 53/116740 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
  12. File 2.12.03.6397 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  13. ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429 + ADM 199/644
  14. ADM 234/369
  15. ADM 199/632
  16. ADM 199/632 + ADM 234/369
  17. ADM 53/118274
  18. ADM 53/116898 + ADM 53/117024 + ADM 199/632
  19. ADM 53/116898 + ADM 53/117024 + ADM 53/117691 + ADM 199/632
  20. ADM 53/117879 + ADM 199/767
  21. ADM 53/118672
  22. ADM 173/18160
  23. ADM 199/766
  24. ADM 53/116903 + ADM 53/117016 + ADM 53/117401 + ADM 53/118367 + ADM 53/118433 + ADM 199/632
  25. ADM 53/118433 + ADM 199/632
  26. ADM 53/117697 + ADM 53/118304 + ADM 53/118434 + ADM 199/766
  27. ADM 53/117522 + ADM 53/117661 + ADM 53/118665 + ADM 53/118677
  28. ADM 199/632 + ADM 199/766
  29. ADM 53/116906 + ADM 53/116907 + ADM 53/117019 + ADM 53/117020 + ADM 199/632
  30. ADM 199/632 + ADM 234/343
  31. ADM 53/118816 + ADM 53/119168
  32. ADM 173/18885
  33. ADM 199/1427
  34. ADM 53/118821 + ADM 53/119294 + ADM 53/119473 + ADM 53/119556 + ADM 199/1427
  35. ADM 53/118821
  36. ADM 173/18719
  37. ADM 173/18745

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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